Once I’ve finally conquered hell, I feel like a demon. My face is burned red like I’d been outside in the sun all summer and my breath comes in such short pants I sound like I am one of those squeaky dog toys.
I stumble over to my mother and collapse on the grass beside her. Let her see what she has done, what she’s caused to happen to her precious child.
She glances over at me, barely acknowledging my plight at all. “Let this be a lesson to you, Kat. All of this is for your own good. I’m not about to go easy on you. I never have and never will. It’ll just make you a bigger target.”
She stares at me as if she expects me to reply, fat chance of that happening. I am still trying to calm my racing heart and breathe normally again as I raise my arms over my head. Maybe I am going to have a heart attack, I’d just die at her feet. That will teach her.
“Seriously, I don’t know what got into you? Did you really think I would let you talk to me like that in front of everyone and get away with it? You are supposed to be working with me, not against me.”
I wheezed. “I didn’t do anything, mom. He’s the one that approached me, not the other way around.” My entire body is threatening to give out on me. My legs burn and cramp, and my chest heaves as if it’s about to spontaneously combust at any given moment.
“Doesn’t matter, next time, watch your tone!” My mother scolds before walking off.
“Shirley, can I speak with you please,” Alpha Ezra’s voice isn’t too far away. Had he heard any of that? I turn to glance at him and mom hurries over.
“Of course, Alpha,” my mother says.
Alpha Ezra looks over at me dying on the ground and I look away. I must look pathetic right now, which will not be helping my situation of proving useful to the Pack. Jasmine walks over and squats next to me, handing me her drink bottle and I squirt some water into my mouth before reluctantly sitting up. I was quite content dying on the grass, but no, now I need to haul my ass to the locker room to get changed.
Jasmine leans over, dropping her voice so she won’t be heard. “Damn girl, I thought my dad was strict. What the hell did you do to get her panties all in a wad?”
“Apparently my attitude,” I tell her, and her brows furrow.
Jasmine’s head bobbed as she glances from me to my retreating mother. “But, I saw you. You weren’t doing anything.”
Mom is almost at the main building now.
“Tell my mother that,” I sigh before standing. My legs feel like jelly as I walk toward the building. School finished an hour ago, so I was a little shocked to run into Angie as I went to my locker after getting changed. Her blonde hair is highlighted to perfection, and her blue eyes are bright. I can see why she was so popular. She is gorgeous, but the snarl on her face says her nature is anything but.
Whatever, I don’t care why she is still here. I just want to get changed. I open my locker and pull out a new shirt. Taking a moment, I throw it on and revel in at least one thing on me being clean.
A hand darts out, pushing me against my open locker, almost into the thing. Jasmine is fast, she tries to grab Angie and shove her away but it doesn’t work. Angie grabs the front of my shirt and the collar tears.
Seriously? I literally just put this thing on. Why couldn’t she have ruined the smelly sports shirt that was drenched in my sweat? Maybe she has been waiting for me to change so she didn’t have to touch it either.
“Listen Bitch,” she snarls at me, shaking me again. “Stay away from the Alpha, or believe me, I will make every last moment of your pitiful little life miserable!”
I stared at her, realization dawning. “Wait, you stayed here for an entire hour after school to tell me that? Wow, possessive much?” I rip her hand away and turn to get the rest of my things. I am determined not to get into a fight today, thank you very much. Who knows what kind of punishment mom will have for me if I manage that feat?
Jasmine glares at the other girl. “Geez, Angie. Go away, would you? She hasn’t done a damn thing to you. What is it with everyone picking on her on the first day? She just had to run twenty laps on the field! Lay off,” Jasmine growls. It was nice to have an ally, though I wonder how long it will take for her to abandon me once she finds out the truth.
Angie wasn’t about to give up. Reaching around Jasmine, she grabs my hair and I hiss as I feel my hair being ripped from my skull.
That’s it! Bullying is one thing, but physically coming at me? I twist around, letting my hair pull tight and rip from my head and I punch the bitch square in her nose.
Angie shrieks and lets go to clench her face. Streaks of blood trickle from her fingers. I’d gotten her good. I am not in the mood to deal with this shit after almost being killed by my own mother. Besides, mom did tell me to use my fists next time.
Jasmine stares at us as Angie pulls her hands away and stares at the blood. “You fucking slut!” she screeches. She swings at me hard, but I duck beneath her blow easily and there’s a clang as her fist connects to my locker door behind me. The thin metal dents from the force and she howls.
“What is going on here?” snaps a voice down the corridor. I glance up to see Beta Mateo making his way to us and glaring coldly at the situation.
Angie doesn’t waste a minute. She whirls away from me and runs over to him, her lip juts out in a huge pout and quivers. “She’s crazy,” she whispers in a simper, “she just attacked me for no reason at all,” she points to her bleeding nose. “Please, Beta, kick her out,” she tries to push her body against his as she grabs his arm.
Shit. I’m not hurt and Angie’s still bleeding pretty heavily. This looks like a lost little bloody lamb, Angie, trembling at his side, while a lion, me, glares at the two of them. He is going to believe the worst, that I was the cause of all this. After all, I am the new girl and she is the one that is always with the Alpha.
His eyes flickered from Angie to Jasmine and me. “Is this true? Did she attack another student?”
Thankfully, I have Jasmine, hopefully, my new friend put a hand on her hip and shook her head at the situation. “Angie started it. She attacked Kat as soon as she opened her locker. Look at her shirt. Angie attacked, and Kat defended herself. That bitch was the one threatening her.”
I almost wince at the bitch comment. I wasn’t sure of Beta Mateo yet, but maybe he would be the type to discredit people for using colorful language.
I keep my mouth shut, awaiting my fate. Mom and Alpha Ezra walk around the corner, coming toward us, oh great, because twenty laps of hell isn’t enough. Not only have I had to deal with this crazy bitch and her jealousy issues, but there is no way mom isn’t going to make an example out of me and make me run until I coughed up blood. My legs tremble at the thought of any more.
Angie lets go of Beta Mateo like his touch burns and she rushes over to the Alpha, trying the same clinging tactic on him. For his part, he side-steps away and she ends up grabbing for thin air, she hadn’t even got to brush against him.
Not that it will dissuade the woman hunting me. She turns to my mother and her eyes get all big and watery, “Ms. Shirley, your daughter, she’s out of control. She attacked me.”
I hang my head, waiting for the inevitable. How many more will it be this time? Or will I just be kicked out and left on my own after this?
“You must have deserved it,” my mother snaps.
My head jerks up, my mom has her hands on her hips and a fire blazes in her eyes. That’s my momma! She is always tough out there in the Pack, but when she is home she is my mom.
Angie glares at her as if she has been the one betrayed, she trembles with the rage that must be flowing through her body. Mom took the opportunity to wink at me and smirk.
Alpha Ezra’s eyes are unreadable, a coldness is present in him, an almost simmering rage, but it’s not directed at me. “Go put ice on it and have a nurse reset the bone. Oh, and Angie, you need to stay away from Katya in the future.”
Angie continues to tremble and this time when her lip trembles, I don’t doubt it’s real, her glare is piercing. She clearly hoped for a different outcome to this entire situation. She turns on her heel and scampers off down the hallway with tears flowing down her cheeks.
I almost feel bad for her. Thankfully, it only lasts a second before my mother’s stern voice steals my attention. She is in teacher mode again.
The woman pinches the bridge of her nose and shakes her head. “Katya, trouble on your first day? What am I to do with you?” It isn’t exactly a scolding, and from the way her lips twitch, I am pretty sure that mom is trying to hide that she is proud of the way I’d handled the situation. Though, that is tempered by the disappointment of me constantly drawing attention to myself.
“Wait, don’t get on her case. Angie attacked her first! Kat was just defending herself. Please,” Jasmine blurts out, her hands raised as if trying to defuse the situation. Is this what it felt like to have a friend? I am really liking this. Too bad it will probably end when she finds out I am a freak.
“That may very well be the case. However, I don’t condone violence when we’re not training. This is a zero tolerance policy. Kat, you will have detention with me tomorrow,” states Alpha Ezra.
My mother glances his way, her lips thin. Uh oh. There’s no more smirk or pride in her now.
The Alpha must sense the mood change because he looks at her. “Is that an issue?”
My mother averts her gaze, her lips pressed together until they’re one thin white line.
Even Jasmine has lost her nerve as she stares at the ground.
Well then, up to me to defend myself. “What about Angie?” I snap. “This is completely unfair. That bitch started it-”
I shut up from the withering glare my mom sends me. Time to shut my mouth.
The Alpha looks over my head and at his Beta. “Beta Mateo will deal with Angie.”
I sneak a peek over my shoulder at the Beta and his eyes have darkened. He does not look happy about wasting his lunch hour having to babysit a student.
“You may go,” Alpha Ezra informs me.
I swoop down and grab my bag from my dented locker. In the time it takes for me to retrieve my things mom has already all but disappeared down the hall. I have to jog to chase her down, something my legs absolutely hate me for.
She waits until we’re far enough away before giving me a side-eyed glare. “Seriously, Katya. You’re always drawing attention to yourself,” she snarls.
I toss my arms in the air. I can never win with this woman! “You said,” I remind her with a classical imitation of her at my old school, “defend yourself, Katya, you’ve been trained by me, you’ve been trained by your father, use these,” I made a few practice jabs for effect.
She shakes her head and looks away. Far on the other end of the corridor Jasmine rushes out the doors. I hadn’t even told her goodbye and left her to fend for herself with the Alpha and Beta. I wince, that is one way to lose a friend. Said Alpha and Beta are still talking to each other far away from us.
Mom whirls and grabs my shoulders, making me look up at her square in the face. “Yes, I did. But we need this to work out here, Kat. I know exactly what I said, but this is it for our family. Unless you want us to end up as rogues, we have to make this work. There’s no other choice.”
I wrinkle my brow. “We could go to another Pack.”
Mom scoffs slightly as if I had told her a joke. “Another Pack? Kat, this is it, there is no other Pack willing to take us because of Alpha Jackson. It’s a miracle that Alpha Ezra hates that man so much he was willing to take us,” she sighs and rubs my arms gently. “I’m sorry,” she whispers, before stepping away.
Her other persona she puts on like a coat, her jaw hardening, her eyes like rough rocks. She turns on her heel away from me, storming out the door. I am forced to chase her once again so I’m not left behind.
I open the passenger door and hop into the seat. My mom doesn’t say anything the entire drive home, whatever gentleness she’d shown me in the changing room had been ruthlessly squished. She drums her fingers on the steering wheel and I wince. When she’s this upset her road rage peaks, whoever else is on the road, I’m so sorry. The only way to avoid her wrath at this point is to go well above the speed limit.
Sighing, I let the back of my head fall against the headrest, I never intentionally try to disappoint her. Now, on top of that, I have to deal with detention and being alone with Alpha Ezra. Just what I need, the one thing I can’t afford is his attention, and with this setup, there will be no escaping it.
Getting home, I am about to race to my room when my mother stops me. “No, go and see your father first,” she snaps at me, pointing in the direction of the kitchen. The radio is playing a soft tune, but it’s drowned out by my dad singing along while he cooks. Whatever he is cooking makes my tummy growl in anticipation.
“Now, Kat,” my mother reminds, tapping her foot when I make no effort to confront my father. I groan, but one growl from her and I move toward the kitchen.
I’m not worried about him punishing me, as if that was ever possible, I am his little Pumpkin. I cringe at the nickname he uses, but if it gets me out of trouble, I will endure it as long as he doesn’t use it in public.
“Hey there, Pumpkin,” my father greets as I step into the kitchen.
Mom walks in behind me, grabbing a bottle of water from the fridge, and dumps her keys on the counter beside the microwave. She leans back, hip propped against the bench as she glares at the two of us. “Aren’t you going to say something to her?” She scolds dad.
He gives her a questioning look before slowly turning toward me. “Kat,” he sighs and it looks like he’s gained several years in an instant. “What happened this time?” I appreciate how he doesn’t put the blame on me automatically, not like mom does.
I shrug. In my eyes, I hadn’t done anything wrong.
Mom is quick to inform him, as she holds up one finger. “She was annoying the Alpha when she was supposed to be training,” she holds up another. “And after her punishment for that, she got into a fight with another student.”
Dad grins at me and bounced around the kitchen on the balls of his feet, shadow boxing. “Did you win?”
There is no way I can stop the smile tugging at my lips.
Mom scowls and slaps his arm, dad takes the time to send me a wink before coughing and thumping his chest with a fist. He puffed himself up and put his Beta figure face on. He was just doing this to appease mom, but I’d endure it.
“What kind of father are you?” Mom snaps. His gambit has failed. Mom is still mad at the two of us. “She is drawing attention to herself. I was even scolded by the Alpha for disciplining her.”
I blink at this news, dad’s teasing smile is gone in an instant. “The Alpha scolded you?”
Huh, the Alpha got on her case for trying to kill me? And here I thought he was pissed at me.
Mom rolls her eyes, as if trying to maim me for life for running my legs off wasn’t that big of a deal. “I made her run a few laps. It’s why we were late. Do you just ignore our mind link? I told you all of this already,” mom snaps at him.
“I was busy unPacking and cleaning, I might have missed that part,” dad tells her with a shrug. I didn’t blame him. If I was an adult and could tune her ass out without getting beat, it’s exactly what I’d do too.
She paused to take a swig of water from her bottle. “Utterly humiliated, I’ve never been reprimanded on my first day.”
I take the chance to slink out of the kitchen. I make it only to the entrance before my mom’s sharp voice stops me in my tracks.
“Katya, I am not done talking to you.”
“And now Katya has detention with him tomorrow.” She continues snitching to my father.
“Detention?” my father asks, his head turning to look at me while I was staring at the door looking for an escape.
“It’s a bit odd for an Alpha to be doing teacher duties,” he ponders, and come to think of it, it was a little strange that he was leaving the Packhouse just to watch me sit through lunch. How boring, I think to myself.
“You need to be more careful. We can’t have the Alpha breathing down our necks for you misbehaving. What if he finds out you don’t have your wolf yet before we have proven you useful to the Pack?” My father whispers gently.
The same bloody lecture, this is their fault. They are the ones that lied to him about me. If they had been honest I wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells all the time.
Nope, if we get kicked out it’s all on me. As if I didn’t have enough stress on my shoulders with changing schools and trying to fit in. I want to be invisible and just survive, maybe it would be best if I just vanished. I am nothing but a burden to my family, some dirty little secret they have to keep hidden.
“Okay, can I go now?” I ask, wanting to be on my own where I can be just me and not the Beta’s daughter, and not the freak—just boring old Kat.
“Yes, you can go, but seriously Kat, this is it. We fuck this up. We are rogue. You know Packs don’t like to have wolf-less Pack members,” my father reminds me of my pathetic situation once again.