I didn’t stop running until I was deep into the forest, my lungs burning from being deprived of oxygen.
My wolf, Maya, was furious.
She was hesitant about Tyler in the beginning, but was eventually won over. She thought he was our mate too. While I was heartbroken and fighting back tears, Maya was seething.
I closed my eyes and allowed her to take over, making her promise that she wouldn’t go and hunt Tyler down.
Maya carried us farther into the woods, and I allowed myself to sink into the furthest depths of her mind. My head was still racing with what had just happened, I wanted to turn everything off for just a few moments. I couldn’t handle it.
Hours and hours had passed, but I hardly noticed. I drifted off as Maya hunted and continued running.
I finally came to my senses when soft grass tickled my naked back. The familiar scent of herbs filled the air. Basil, Lavender, and Mint invaded my nose and soothed my aching heart.
“Lola, dear? Is that you?” A withered voice called out and I felt my heart jump.
“You brought me here?” I asked Maya in surprise.
“We need her. We’re not going back.” She growled, resenting me for thwarting her plans on attacking Tyler.
“Grandma?” My voice cracked and I sat up from the grass.
It was nearing dawn, the sun was just beginning to rise and it cast orange hues along her small cottage. Her herb gardens lifted and swayed in the breeze.
I had always loved coming to grandma’s house. My mom forbade me and my brother from coming back here, holding a grudge against my grandma for years.
The story of my mom meeting my dad isn’t one I like to talk about. My mom and dad aren’t mates. Mom rejected her mate when she was younger, seeking out my dad when she realized his mate had died. My grandma always resented her for that, for throwing the mate bond away.
“Lola, what on earth are you doing here?” My grandma exclaimed, wrapping a woven blanket around my exposed body. She pulled me into a hug and I could feel myself break down at her familiar scent and touch.
My grandma had this quality that made everyone love her. She was nearly impossible not to get along with. My grandma matched my extremely short height of 5’2′, and had the same long black hair. She was more withered, with laugh lines circling her mouth and eyes, but she had never looked better to me.
“I missed you so much.” I cried into her shoulder. I even remembered how she smelled. So many different herbs and apples. Grandma had a couple of apple trees she absolutely adored. She would always be making a pie or some kind of dessert when we used to visit.
“What’s got you all worked up, Lola?” Grandma frowned, “Is it that boy you’re dating?”
Grandma was always supportive of anything I wanted to do, she just always reminded me to think things through.
Grandma led me into her little cottage and sat me by her fireplace.
“Tell me, what happened?” She sat next to me, placing a fresh set of clothes in my lap.
And tell her, I did.
I poured my heart out for what seemed like hours. She never once threw my mistake back in my face, like my mother would have.
“I don’t want to go back, Grandma. I can’t face them.” I sniffled.
“Then you won’t go back. You’ll stay here with me.” My grandma nodded with finality. She had that determined look on her face that said ‘nobody will stand in my way’.
“What about mom and dad.” I sighed, knowing a huge fight between them was brewing.
“You let me deal with your parents.” My grandma shook her head, placing a cup of tea in my hands.
1 Year Later
“Ha-ha!” I laughed, launching myself through the air. I maneuvered around the muscular arms that reached out to grab me.
I dropped to the ground, dodging limbs and landing my own blows as I went.
“Good Lola, don’t let me land any blows.” Chris’s weary voice yelled out.
“Just a few more seconds. He’s getting tired.” Maya coached me.
I continued to dodge each move Chris made, while landing my own in the process. I could feel him breaking down, growing tired as he threw all he had at me.
“Now!” Maya yelled in my head.
I leaped at Chris suddenly, his eyes widening in shock before he could defend himself. He turned away, as if he were going to run. I landed on his back and wrapped my arms around his neck, putting pressure on his windpipe.
After a second or two of holding it there, I jumped off his back and beamed up at him.
“That was some good work, kid.” Chris nodded appreciatively.
“Thanks.” I smirked, finally having gotten the upper hand on him.
Chris rolled his eyes and frowned at me, “Don’t go getting cocky now. You still need to work on building your strength.”
“I know, I know. Just let me have this win.” I sighed, smiling at my grandma as she came out of the cottage with food and drinks.
I had been living with grandma for almost a year, only talking to my parents once a week. I stopped calling my mom after a month. She insisted on giving me updates on Tyler and his mate, which I learned was named Brittany. I kept in constant contact with my dad, the only person who seemed to understand the decision I had made. Even my older brother Sean, rarely called.
Sean had started taking over his duties as Beta, my father having retired almost a year ago.
Life had been amazing living with my grandma. I spent my eighteenth birthday in her cottage, picking herbs and making pastries with the apples she had picked. My grandma lived a simple life, but I had quickly grown to love it.
She introduced me to her neighbor. Chris. Chris happened to be a werewolf like Grandma and I. In Chris’s prime he was one of the best warriors in history, and even a Beta at one point. No one knew what happened to him after he disappeared, no one but my grandma. Chris agreed to train me, looking at my short stature, and deciding I needed to know how to protect myself.
Chris taught me to use what I had in my favor. Being 5’2′ and 105lbs didn’t give me much to work with. After training with Chris for almost a year, I could easily handle myself. I’m small and fast, which means men twice my size had to work even harder to land any blows.
“Lola, dear. Your brother’s on the line waiting for you!” Grandma informed me, placing a sandwich in my hand as I walked into the house.
“Hello?” I said through a mouthful of sandwich. Why would Sean be calling me?
“Lola? I have some news.” Sean’s voice responded from the other end, sounding a lot deeper than usual.
“What’s up?” I frowned, sitting on the arm of the couch as I munched on my sandwich.
There was a long pause on the other end of the line.
“Mom’s dead, Lola.” Sean replied in a gruff voice.
I felt my face scrunch up in confusion. How could mom be dead? Everything seemed normal when Dad called me every week.
“W-What? How?” I demanded.
“Just- Just come home, Lola. I don’t want to explain this over the phone.” Sean sighed, adding “Dad needs you.”
“I’ll- I’ll talk to grandma.” I sighed. The last thing in the world I wanted was to go home. The thought of running into Tyler or his mate put a sour taste in my mouth.
After Chris went home for the day, I told grandma the news.
As much as grandma didn’t like my mom, she was still sad to hear what had happened.
“And he wouldn’t tell you what happened to her.” Grandma sighed.
“He said he wanted to explain in person. He said dad needs me.” I frowned at her, and she knew what I needed to do.
“Then I suppose we better get packing.” Grandma frowned, worrying about her widowed son.
“We? You’re coming too?” I nearly gasped.
A stern frown crossed her face, but I could see her eyes twinkling. “Of course, no granddaughter of mine is going back to her slimy ex without some backup.”
“I don’t know what I’d do without you.” I sighed, pulling her in for a hug.
“Just don’t expect me to get into any fist fights, I’m too old for that stuff. No one wants to see a sixty-year-old werewolf fight.” Grandma cackled.
I rolled my eyes at her, but I couldn’t help the giggle that slipped from my lips.
“You’ll never be old to me.” I smirked, following her into the bedroom to pack our clothes away.
Grandma stopped by Chris’s house the next morning, letting him know where we had gone. She promised him a year’s supply of apple pies if he took care of her herb garden.
We hopped into my grandma’s car, and the anticipation bubbled in my stomach. Everything about me had changed in such a short amount of time. I was no longer weak or shallow. I wouldn’t let anyone walk all over me ever again.
“Are you ready for this?” My grandma frowned, her silver eyes meeting my identical ones.
“Not at all.” I gave her a weak smile.
“Chin up. If any of those pups mess with you, bite their damn head off.” My grandma encouraged me.
Through the nerves and resentment I held for my old pack, I laughed at my grandma and braced myself.
Turns out I wasn’t the only thing that had changed.