All afternoon I was in a terrible mood. I couldn’t concentrate or focus on anything. Two days in a row, I had seen Valen, and the bond was buzzing, and I could feel it was making it increasingly difficult to do anything. On top of that, I had his lingering threat and the worry that came with it. He had the power to destroy the Hotel we saved, and Valarie gave it to Valarian and me. I felt protective of it; we built this place from its b**e bones and gave it back life. I wasn’t about to stand by and let him take from us. Yet I would be powerless against him in a City where rogues meant nothing.
It would be a lie if I said I wasn’t worried; I was. Macey, Zoe, and I have worked our a**es off for years building this place back up. And for him to threaten to destroy it made my blood boil, the question lingering in the back of my mind, would he really destroy this place, harm his own mate’s business all because I refused to give into him?
“Ah mummy, ” Valerian’s worried voice reaches my ears, and I lift my head to look at him. A shriek leaves my lips when I realize I was burning the grilled cheese, smoke billowing from the grill, and I rush over, ripping the tray out only to forget it was piping hot, and I wasn’t wearing oven gloves.
My fingers sizzle, and I drop the tray before racing to the sin and quickly turning the tap on to run my hand under the cold water.
“Casey, don’t touch that,” I tell her when she leans down from the kitchen table to pick up the hot tray. She sits back up, and Zoe comes racing out with all the commotion. The smoke alarms suddenly start blaring loudly, and she opens the window above the sink before using a tea towel to waft the smoke out the window.
“Sh!t, Eve. Are you ok?” I nod, holding my hand under the cool water. My fingertips blistered while Zoe used the tea towel and picked up the tray, placing it on the stove and discarding the ruined
grilled cheese. She then uses the broom to smack the fire alarm, jabbing the button and cutting off its deafening noise.
“Let me see, ” Zoe says, looking around me at my burnt hand.
” It’s fine; it will heal,” I tell her, and she clicks her tongue.
“You have been distracted all afternoon. What’s going on with you today?”
I glance at the small dining table in our cramped tiny kitchen. Both kids went back to their drawing and no longer paid attention to us.
” He came by again today, ” I tell her, and Zoe sighs before running her fingers through her hair. I knew she worried I would turn out like Valarie, she and Macey had expressed multiple times they wanted me to mate another rogue to ensure I didn’t d*e, but other men didn’t faze me in the slightest. I was content on my own, and I liked my independence and didn’t need a mate to be whole. However, I couldn’t deny how the bond has affected me.
“You need to figure something out, last night, you couldn’t sleep and were pacing all night, and now you’re burning yourself. Go for a run. Val always told you to run it off. Seeing him always weakened her. The more you see him, the more fragile you will become, ” Zoe says before chewing her thumbnail and watching me nervously.
Zoe was right, and I remembered every time that Alpha caine to visit Valarie, she would be out of it for days, and we would have to force her out of bed. Yet, that couldn’t be happening to me. Not yet, surely. Valarie lasted decades before her deterioration got that bad; it killed her.
“Go , you know you should. When was the last time you even shifted? ” I shrug, knowing she was right and it had been well and truly over a month.
Yet I hated shifting. It was a constant reminder of what had become of me. Each time, my wolf side became smaller and weaker. If I didn’t shift, my mental state would start to deteriorate along with my body. When she was still able, Valarie told me that shifting helped ward off the effects of the bond.
Gosh, how I missed that woman. She was one of a kind and one of the best women I had the pleasure of ever meeting. She would have been a great-grandmother had she gotten the chance to live longer. One thing I will never forgive Alpha Kalen for, he killed her, and I just had to make sure his son didn’t make history repeat itself.
Valen won’t k!!l me, and he won’t get my son; I would make sure of it.
“Go, you can tell me about it later when the kids are in bed,” I nod, looking over at them. Valerian’s amber eyes stared down at his paper as he drew his picture, concentrating hard, his tongue poking out the corner.
Zoe sets a glass of juice on the table beside him, and he stares at it and his lips purse while his brows furrow as he glares at it before moving it onto the coaster. He then does the same with Casey’s. His pencils were all straight in a row, set perfectly and even sharpened to the same length. However, Casey’s were in disarray, and I could see his fingers twitch to straighten them for her.
” Sorry, Valerian, I forgot, ” Zoe laughs softly before ruffling his thick dark hair. He looked like his father, a spitting image, and I noticed the stares he sometimes got. He already had a particular atmosphere about him, he was an Alpha in the making, and I wasn’t sure it would remain hidden. One day someone would notice he wasn’t like other rogues. He was born from Alpha Parents. Even though I no longer had an aura, he was strong and dominant.
His personality is quite intense for a child. Casey was like any child; though she looked like Zoe, I could see her father in her too. Casey had his dark blonde hair and brown eyes, though her soft facial features and her nose she got from her mother.
“Eve, go. The kids are fine,” Zoe tells me, and I nod. I felt like I was failing my son, I hardly had time, and I hated spending it away from my son when I did. I felt so spread thin, always racing around for the
Hotel and barely having the energy to function by the afternoon, always working, building our village and his future.
I kiss Valerian on the cheek as I walk around the table to grab my sneakers.
“Can I come?” Valerian asks, and my heart thumps at the thought. He loved watching me shift, not realizing how much weaker I was to a regular werewolf. How was he to know when I am the only one he has seen, but lately, the reserve hasn’t been safe.
A few forsaken have got into the City, it has been unusual. Though the City’s border patro1s quickly put them down, it made me nervous about taking him out. Since the last encounter reported, I hadn’t been out after a group of rogues was attacked.
The packs couldn’t care less for rogues, which only made us more nervous. They didn’t care but had tightened patrols; it was no good for anyone in the City if they could get in. Another thing I thought odd was the reports of forsaken wolves going missing. Some that stuck close to the City borders and turned feral had suddenly vanished.
Those that kept monitoring them hadn’t seen them, and one thing this City was good at was talking.
Rumor spread, yet the missing forsaken Wolves are never mentioned in the news. It’s like they don’t exist, but I know they exist, we have all heard the rumors, yet no warning was ever given to us rogues to steer clear of the reserve.
Those living in packs were given alternative options for going on runs and extra patrols. None of those
options were offered to us. So when rogues or forsaken went missing we knew, the rogue community was small; we noticed when one of us went missing, not that the City cared.
One of the missing rogues was a cleaner here; she had twin girls, luckily their grandmother took them in, and we have still been paying her wage and would continue to do so, despite her remaining missing. We would continue to help out her mother with the twins; we didn’t forget her.
All rogues have been on edge, eleven missing in the last year and numerous forsaken sightings and three forsaken also vanished; it made no sense. The world was going mad, and it scared me.
“Not today, sweetie, next time I promise, ” I tell him, and Valerian pouts.
” None of that; your mother has her reasons, ” Zoe scolds when he glares at the table and slams his pencil down.
“All she does is work,” Valerian mutters, and my heart twists painfully at his words.
“I promise next time, it isn’t safe right now, ” I tell him, and he looks at me where I sat on the couch, placing my sneakers on.
“If it isn’t safe, why are you going then?”
“Because I have to, I need to shift you know that, we have spoken of this before. Sometimes mummy needs to,”
“Fine,” Valerian says, straightening his pencils before reaching over and doing the same with Casey’s. She frowns at his compulsive behavior.
“You promise next time I can go to?” Valarian asks. I sigh and nod my head.
“I promise, ” I tell him.
“Pinky promise,” he asks, holding up his little pinky. I chuckle, getting up and capturing his pinky with mine.
“I pinkie promise, ” I tell him, kissing his cheek.
“Now behave for Aunty Zoe, and I will be back soon. We can watch that dinosaur movie tonight if you like after dinner,”
“Ooh, and I can make caramelized popcorn, ” Zoe tells the kids, who nod excitedly.
“Stay away from the fence line,” Zoe says, concerned. I look at the clock and nod.
“Two hours max, “
“Any longer, I send a search party, ” She replies. I knew she would too. Anxiety amongst us rogues was at an all-time high.
Giving one last glance at Valarian, I walk to the front door and hurry down the steps. Turning down the path at the bottom, I head for the back of the large property toward the fenceline. The back of the Hotel backs onto the reserve. A large hole had been cut in the mesh fence. It made it easier for those working here to sneak into the back of the reserve.
The reserve was large and had a wetland off closer to the City’s border fences that encircled the entire City. It was also neutral territory, and the only place considered safe for us rogues to shift without causing a disturbance to the packs, which to me made no sense. Shifting is natural to werewolves, yet we were restricted to where we could go because packs didn’t want to share any of the safer places to run.
We were considered the undeserving, the nuisances of the City. So we got this one place and one place only, and it had to be the most dangerous part of the City that was gifted to us, right on the most extensive stretch of the border fence line that was the weakest and most accessible to gain entry.
I planned to steer clear of those fences; we all avoided them, not wanting the unnecessary attention from those on patrol and now not wanting the unwanted attention of any possible forsaken wolves that may be lurking and looking for a way into the City.
I was yet to see one and didn’t want to ; the rumors were enough to make me want to avoid them at all costs, cannibals, rabid and crazed, the parts of them that once had humanity now gone, forever stuck in their shifted state, forever the monsters humans once painted us to be.
Slipping amongst the trees, I look around before pulling my clothes off and tucking them into a hollow log before kneeling. I had been finding it difficult to shift. It took more concentration and was forced. My body no longer agreeing to do as it was told, no longer strong enough to change on demand.
It was a battle made harder each time. I shudder when I feel my bones start breaking, the process painful, and it shouldn’t be. It was like my first shift all over again, and I curse that I ever met Valen as I morph into my wolf, hands becoming paws two legs traded for four. My vision changed and adapting and now I had shifted; all I wanted was rest. I was exhausted already, but I forced myself to run.I ran for about an hour before I could barely move, collapsing on the ground next to my clothes before shifting back and changing into my clothes. Slowly walking back to my apartment, I turned the corner and smacked into a wall that should not have been there. I knew this place like the back of my hand. I was stumbling backward, having bounced off the firm body. A warm hand grips my arm, pulling me back before I land on my a*s on the pavement.
A gasp escapes me when sparks rush up my arm, and his intoxicating scent has me leaning into him involuntarily. “I was looking for you, and the cleaner said your apartment was, ” he looks around before looking up at the stairs and pointing to mine and Zoe’s apartment.
“This one, ” Valen says, and I brush his hand away that held my arm, my heart thudding in my chest when I hear the kids playing. Valen looks up at the apartment.
“You live with someone?” He asks, c**king his head to the side.
“Yes, Zoe and her kids, ” I tell him needing him away from my apartment before Valarian realizes I am home and rushes out.
“Well, are we going to stand here? ” he asks, and I glance at my apartment.
“I just want to talk. Please just hear me out,”
“We already spoke, ” I trailed off, Valarina pulling the curtain back to stare out, and Zoe quickly closes it, her mouth opening and closing like a fish before she pulls Valarian away just as Valen turns to look up. He waves to Zoe briefly, and she smiles awkwardly.
“Ah yeah, fine, but my office, ” I tell him walking off to the central part of the Hotel before he could argue.