Six years. I hadn’t been back in my home pack’s lands in six years. I never thought I’d actually be able to make it on my own when I walked across our southern border and out into the world at seventeen with nothing but a duffle bag and the clothes on my back.
As I stepped back across the border now at the age of twenty-three, I could barely even remember that girl who’d left so many years ago. She was just a child full of desperate sadness and loss, yet filled with hope and wonder for her path ahead of her. She had been courageous and strong, never looking back at the pack who’d shunned her for simply being born without a father.
Once my mother had died, I knew I couldn’t remain as a solitary omega in the pack. If I was going to be forced to live alone, then I was going to do it own my terms. I’d had no idea how hard that would actually be.
But now, after everything that had happened, I had no other choice but to return home. He’d kept me on the run for three years, and I was out of places to hide. It was time to face my demons head on and find a way back into the pack. If I wanted to survive, I’d have to.
As I made my way slowly through the woods, memories of my childhood began to flood into the forefront of my mind. I could see my mother as clear as if she were right in front of me. She’d tried to make my life as easy as she could given our outsider status. No matter how often I’d asked, she would never reveal who my father was, or why she willingly let us live the life of omegas in our own pack. It was something we’d fought often about, but now she was gone and I was more alone than ever, with an ever-constant shadow following me. As I crossed the border, I couldn’t help but think of her.
I miss you mama. I’m home now.
I could hear her singing softly to me as I cried myself to sleep each night, wishing that the moon would have given me a mate like all of the others. The day the oracle revealed that as an Omega I was not entitled to a mate given by the heavens, I was heartbroken. I’d seen my mother live through her pain every day without her mate. It was a loneliness I did not wish to inherit.
Now I’d give anything not to be living with a constant demon following me everywhere I went. I was completely isolated and yet never fully alone, always waiting for the other show to drop as I moved to the next town to avoid detection. He was never far behind, which meant I couldn’t stay in one place too long. I can’t believe I’d fallen for him. I had been so stupid to believe his lies, and now I’d have to live with him following behind me for the rest of my life. I’d forever be looking over my shoulder while I waited for him to find me.
Six Years Before
“I’m so sorry Thalia, but your mother has passed on. She succumbed to her illness and has finally left this earth.” The healer’s voice sounded distant, muffled in my ears as I sat staring at my bare feet resting on the chest wood floor.
She couldn’t be gone. She was too strong to let a simple sickness overcome her. How could she leave me alone like this?
I felt a gentle squeeze on my shoulder before the door clicked shut behind the healer as he left. I felt numb, like this was all just a dream and I’d wake up any second. I pinched myself hard on the back of my arm and winced at the pain. It was definitely real.
What am I supposed to do now? I haven’t even gone through my first shift yet. She was supposed to help me through all of it. She was supposed to be here. She’s gone. I’m alone.
My chest tightened as my breath began to shorten. Panic washed over me in suffocating waves as the reality hit me. I was alone. Completely alone.
As Omegas, we were allowed to remain on pack lands, but we were outcasts within the pack itself, never linked and yet still protected. We were isolated from the main group and forced to live in solitary under the sole protection of the Alpha. Now it was just me. I couldn’t live here by myself. What kind of future did that even mean for me? I’d be just like my mother but worse. I didn’t have anyone.
I stood abruptly from my chair, pushing it back with the force of my movement. I walked woodenly over to the closet and grabbed the duffle from the top of my closet and began shoving the essential items I’d need into it. I wasn’t staying here. I wouldn’t live like my mother. I couldn’t.
If I was going to be forced to be alone, then I’d do just that, but on my own terms. I had no idea what that meant, or how I’d manage, but I didn’t care. Life as a Rogue would honestly be just as bad as the one of an Omega with no other family. I was seventeen, old enough to figure it out. My first shift wouldn’t come until later in the year on my eighteenth birthday. I’d just have to endure it alone. I’d seen first shifts hundreds of times, but I knew it was nothing compared to actually experiencing it yourself.
My stomach knotted intensely, but I pushed it deep down inside of me, taking deep calming breaths as I zipped my bag closed. Guilt panged my heart at leaving so abruptly, but I knew if I didn’t go now, I’d lose my nerve. I slung the bag over my shoulder and took a final look around our little cabin on the edge of the pack lands. It wasn’t much, but it had been our home.
I’m sorry mama. I just can’t stay here. I can’t live that way like you did. I love you. I wish you were still here with me.
I walked through the door and off of the front porch and forced my legs to move. The sun was hiding behind the thick sheet of gray clouds as I walked across the field and into the woods leading to the southern border. If I was going out on my own, then I was heading somewhere warm and sunny.
I walked deeper into the woods, and with every step, I felt lighter and lighter. Tears threatened to crest over my eyelashes, but I forced them back, not allowing myself to grieve. She wouldn’t want me to shed any tears, and I had to focus on my task ahead.
I crossed the border and felt the weight lift from my shoulders. I was free. No longer the outcast of a pack who’d never understood me. Who never wanted to love me. The further I moved away from our home, the more hope began to build inside of me. I could do this. I could make this work. I had lived on my own with my mother for so long. How different could it be?
I never imagined I’d be walking back through these woods. Back to a pack who’d been forced to shun me. How would they respond to my return? How was I going to...
“What the hell!” I slammed into something hard and felt myself knocked off balance before falling backwards, hitting the ground hard onto my butt. “Ow!”
Did I seriously just walk into a tree?! Really Lili?
My eyes widened in shock as I looked up to see a gigantic male towering over me, his jaw clenched shut and a growl escaped from his lips as he stepped back and brushed himself off.
“Dude, seriously? Watch where you’re walking!” My irritation surged through me as I did an inventory over my limbs and belongings before moving to stand back onto my feet.
“Me? You literally just walked straight into me. Who do you think you are crossing into our lands and then yelling at me for being in your way?” His voice was low and boomed with authority and irritation at the clumsy intruder in front of him.
I rolled my eyes and stood, swiping my hands over my sore butt to brush the dirt away from my jean shorts before reaching down to yank my bag up off of the ground. My eyes shot up as I tore into my next irrational sentence, the anger building at his accusation that I didn’t belong here. I wouldn’t be the outcast again. I was no longer that girl. “Listen buddy, I...” I stopped short, my words catching hard in my throat as I looked up to meet the piercing blue gaze staring down into mine.
His eyebrows shot up as our eyes met and he froze. His entire body had become rigid and I felt my own mirror his. I felt completely frozen, like I couldn’t move. His eyes captured me in a cloud of complete stillness, like if either of us moved, we’d break the spell slowly surrounding us. My entire body began to tingle as warmth radiated from within me. My brain felt like it was under water, floating uselessly in my head.
What the hell is happening right now?
His jaw was slightly open and he quickly forced it shut, a muscle in his jaw twitching as his brow furrowed. “Who are you?” he gritted out.
I searched my brain but couldn’t seem to find the words to answer his question.
He took a step closer to me and the heat rolling off of him sent a surge of energy through my chest as he spoke again, lower and more pointed than before. “I asked who are you?”
I finally felt something click in my brain and managed to force my name out of my mouth. “Lili.”
He raised a dark brow in response, narrowing his eyes down at me but never breaking from my gaze. “I don’t recognize that name. Why are you here? On my lands?” His voice was commanding and I felt myself jump as he spoke. His voice sent a rush through me like I’d never experienced.
“I-I used to live here. A...long time ago.” I muttered thickly. My mouth felt dry and I forced my lungs to move air in and out of them as the energy surged around the two of us.
“That’s not possible. I have never known any Lili to live here and I’ve lived here my entire life.” His eyes looked at me suspiciously before a flash of recognition crossed his gaze. “Are you Thalia? Thalia Walker?”
I sighed hearing the name I once knew. I hadn’t gone by that in years, and it sounded strange now. No longer belonging to me. That wasn’t who I was anymore. I nodded shortly and tried to push my voice out smoother, but it just betrayed me. “I used to be.” My voice came out breathy and I instantly realized who this large male in front of me was. “Are you Everett? The Alpha’s son?”
His brow furrowed into a scowl and his jaw tightened once more before he responded shortly. “Alpha now. My father died several years ago.”
My heart jolted as he spoke. He was the new Alpha. Maybe this was exactly what I needed. Maybe he would reconsider my position and let me back into the pack. His father never would have been open to it, but maybe he would.
“I’m sorry about your father.”
He nodded curtly and straightened fully, crossing his thick arms across his broad chest. He certainly had grown into Alpha. He was no longer the lean figured boy I’d known from a distance before I left. He was huge now, at least 6′4" and towering over my 5′6" frame. I broke the piercing blue gaze holding me captive and stepped back slightly, trying to regain some form of control over my brain. I could now see that his body matched his stature, covered with thick, corded muscle. He truly looked like an Alpha to be feared and respected.
I felt his eyes move down my body and take in my thin but curvy appearance in my own cutoff shorts and form fitting tank top. I tapped a booted toe on the ground and crossed my arms across my chest as he inspected me before quickly spitting out, “You done?”
Even as the words left my mouth, it felt wrong. I didn’t want to snap at him, but I couldn’t let whatever this was hanging over us distract from my purpose here. I wasn’t a piece of meat to be contained anymore. He narrowed his eyes at me and the familiar haze threatened to creep back into my brain. I looked away quickly, trying to break the spell infecting my thoughts.
“So you can look at me, but I can’t do the same? That hardly sounds fair.” His voice came out with the slightest hint of humor, like he was mocking my anger.
I rolled my eyes and sighed, hugging my arms tighter across my body. “Yeah well, life’s not fair. What else is new?”
He let out a scoff and stepped back to give me some much needed space. I relaxed slightly and loosened my iron grip on my arms.
“So, why are you back after so long? Why did you come back home?” His voice was smooth and low and I felt my body grow warmer as he spoke. What the hell was happening to me?
“Home? I wouldn’t necessarily call it that, but I came back to request to rejoin the pack. Or I guess I should say join. I never was part of it to begin with.”
His eyebrows rose and he gave me a quizzical look.
I muttered quickly, quieter than I intended to, “I don’t have anywhere else to go.”
“Hm,” he grunted as he dropped his arms from his chest. “Normally, I’d say it’s not up to me, but now I’m forced to let you in.”
My eyes shot up to stare into his eyes, the warm glow radiating inside of my chest. I pushed it down and tried to focus, moving my lips to form words. “What do you mean?”
He let out a tight laugh and ran a hand through his dark brown hair. “The pack has no say on if I allow my mate to stay or not. There’s no room for negotiation in this. You’re staying solely because of what you are to me.”
My jaw dropped as he spoke, the words floating heavily in the air above us. “Your-your what?”
“You heard me. Trust me. I’m as shocked as you are.”
I didn’t know what to say. This couldn’t be true. “That’s impossible.”
He shrugged and shifted his weight, peering down into my widened deep blue eyes. I had been told it was not allowed for me. How could this be possible? “Hell if I know, but it’s true. I know you feel it Thalia.”
Hearing that name across his lips sent a shudder down my spine. It sounded so wrong and yet so right coming from him. I shook my head and stepped back once more. He did not move closer, and continued to look down at me as I gaped up at him. “Is that what this is? Is this what it feels like?”
He nodded and waited patiently for me to process. “I was told I couldn’t have a mate. The oracle said...”
He scoffed and rolled his eyes, crossing his thick arms back across his chest. “That hack is long gone. I can’t believe my father kept her around as long as he did. Yes, typically omegas are not allowed mates, but if the moon has other plans for them, it is possible. It’s happened a handful of times that I know of. But it’s usually with another pack, not one of their own.”
I ran a hand through my thick dirty blonde waves and felt my heart begin to beat hard in my chest. “I can’t believe this,” I breathed. “What are we supposed to do now?”
He smirked down at me and stepped to the side, motioning forward down the path leading back to the place I’d known years before. “Now we get to know one another.”