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Juniper is a werewolf who can’t shift. When her father, the Alpha, expels her from her own pack, she finds herself a rogue in a foreign land. But she’s about to meet another alpha. One who will change her life forever…

Rating: 18+

 

Mateo Santiago by Katlego Moncho is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.

 


 

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1

Summary

Juniper is a werewolf who can’t shift. When her father, the Alpha, expels her from her own pack, she finds herself a rogue in a foreign land. But she’s about to meet another alpha. One who will change her life forever…

Genre: Romance, Werewolf, Fantasy

Rating: 18+

Story by: Katlego Moncho

Written by: Jon Altamirano with Brittany Schellin

Sound by: Sam Bartlett

JUNIPER

It was supposed to be one of the happiest days of my life. I was supposed to be excited.

Joyous.

Yet the weight of what was to come on this day, my thirteenth birthday, was a consuming void of anxiety and depression.

There were expectations I had to meet. Expectations I had to live up to if my father and mother were ever going to accept me.

Birthdays were a trial, or at least mine was. I couldn’t exactly recall a time when my parents celebrated me. Not that they were fond of me outside of my birthday either.

Instead, I was foisted off on my grandparents, a small miracle that I grew to appreciate the older I got. They were the ones to raise me, to teach me, to love me.

Like many of my other birthdays, the morning started overcast and gray.

Rain spat down from the sky and against the windows. The sound of it splattering against the house was soothing, a balm to my frayed nerves.

I wasn’t nervous about my birthday. Rather, it was what was supposed to happen. Everyone—my father, mother, my family, our neighbors, our pack—was expecting me to go out there and shift for the very first time.

Today I would take my rightful place as the alpha heir.

That was, if I could complete shifting into my wolf.

I ate alone, an unremarkable breakfast that I wished I hadn’t bothered with.

It was a roll of thunder that shook the house followed by distant voices trying to shout above it that clued me in to the danger about to present itself.

Outside, the rain was heavier, or maybe it grew by the time I reached our front porch. People of the pack milled and murmured, but I couldn’t make out what anyone said.

Then, one by one, they spotted me and grew silent. Despite the torrential downpour, everyone was there. Adults and kids and my grandfather.

My father.

By his side was Jacob, haughty and proud. He was new to the pack, an orphan my father had taken in. My father doted on Jacob and treated him like a son.

It made me jealous.

“Juniper. Come.”

I wanted to step back, return to my room, to sleep.

I wish I had.

But I was helpless. I had to do what he demanded.

One step forward, into squelching mud, and the crowd moved away.

“Dayton, she’s not ready,” my grandfather pleaded. They looked a lot alike but where Grandfather's eyes were filled with warmth, Father’s held a biting coldness.

“She has to be. She will be. No child of mine is without a wolf.” My father waited expectantly as I approached.

“What’s going on?” My voice was barely above a whisper, and it faltered when my grandfather looked at me. There was fear in his eyes. Desperation.

“Please, son. She’s your daughter.” At Grandfather’s words, my father’s face twisted into a cruel smile.

“If June is worthy, she will shift. She will fight. Like all Alphas before her.” Jacob was already shifting into his wolf. He had Alpha blood, like me, and recently had come into his wolf on his own thirteenth birthday.

“It’s too soon.”

I didn’t know where my grandmother was that morning, but Mother was off to the side, a silent spectator with a look of indifference. When she spoke, though, her words were just as cold as my father’s. “Not if it’s meant to be. Every respectable Alpha shifts on their thirteenth birthday.”

“You don't understand. Neither of you ever did.” Grandfather crowded my father, begging.

“Enough!” Another roar of thunder accompanied my father’s shout, and he pushed Grandfather to the ground.

“Stop!” I was standing before them now, helpless and terrified. Jacob’s wolf stood menacingly to the side. My father turned on me, his expression full of malice and eager excitement.

“It’s time, Juniper. You know what day it is. Shift and fight for your title with Jacob.”

I couldn’t.

I tried and tried, calling for my wolf, for any sign of the change, but I was stuck, frozen.

The click of a gun sounded, more deafening than the rain or thunder. I saw Grandfather wince as the barrel pressed against his head. Father’s eyes glinted cruelly, digging the weapon into my grandfather’s temple.

“Shift or I’ll kill him.” His hand didn’t shake. Didn’t tremble. It was steady, and the crowd watched silently.

I pleaded with them, and with my father. I pleaded with my inner beast.

“Shift!”

“I can’t!”

Then the gun went off.

***

Heart racing and soaked with sweat, I shot up from the bed, the sound of the bang still echoing in my head.

Another nightmare.

Another dream reliving the worst moment of my life.

You’re safe now, June. It’s over.

Starlet. I sighed in relief, comforted by her words. My heartbeat slowed, no longer trying to gallop its way out of my chest. I wish I didn’t have to relive it.

I wish I had come to you sooner.

Starlet came to me after that horrible day five years ago, though we still hadn’t completed our shift. My wolf never told me why, and she still wouldn’t. I didn’t care though. I had her—a dear friend when I needed one the most—and that was all that mattered.

A soft knock disturbed us, and the door opened.

My grandmother stepped inside, smiling when she saw me up. The years had been kind to her, but the stress of losing her mate those five years ago had left its mark in the lines around her eyes and the constant droop of her shoulders.

I was so sure she would blame me for that morning. The devastation on her face when she saw Grandfather dead on the ground convinced me that I had lost her too. Her scream had startled my father enough for him to retreat.

After a while, Grandmother had come to me and wrapped me in her arms. She took me away to her home, and that was where I’d stayed for the past five years.

I was terrified to leave, so sure my father would repeat what he’d done to Grandfather to me. Together we decided it would be best for me to stay tucked away safely until, well, something pushed me to leave.

“Happy birthday, June.” She shuffled along creaky floorboards. In her hands was a small cake with candles flickering on top. “Make a wish, baby girl.”

I smiled and closed my eyes, concentrating.

A breeze swept through the room. Curtains shifted, and the door slammed shut. When I opened my eyes again, the candles were extinguished and Grandmother had an admonishing look and windswept hair.

“June!”

“You said I should practice using them!”

“Magic isn’t meant to be used that way. Elemental powers especially.” She scolded me as she smoothed her hair.

With a thought, I reignited the candles, tiny flames rekindled with a spark of magic. I pursed my lips and blew them out normally, smiling innocently as Grandmother narrowed her eyes at me.

“Okay, okay.” I laughed, relenting. “I’m sorry.”

Grandmother’s expression softened, a smile slipping onto her lips.

My magical powers had shown themselves gradually over the years I’d lived here. The first time I’d shown signs of elemental magic had been when I’d woken with a fever and promptly steamed the bathroom up in an inordinate amount of time.

Grandmother took it in stride, despite it being another unnatural phenomenon concerning me. “It’s because you’re special, Juniper. You’re going to do great things, baby girl,” she’d said to me when I came to her crying.

“Is it raining again today?” She nodded, but I wasn’t surprised.

It always rained on my birthday.

“I’ll be out today. I have to help Tabatha with something at her house.” She brushed the hair from my face, clucking and worrying. “You’ll be fine if I leave for a few hours?”

I smiled softly. “Go help Tabatha out of whatever mess she’s caused this time.”

I had a routine, despite, or because of, being stuck at home. Breakfast, schoolwork, as much exercise as I could manage, free time, and then dinner. Evenings were usually spent with Grandmother and whatever current show she had been sucked into.

Today, though, I found myself staring out into the backyard. Sometimes I longed to step outside into the heat of the sun or the cool splash of rain or to feel the wind’s caress. The longing had been unbearable at first, but I’d learned to repress it.

At least, I thought I had.

It wasn’t until I was halfway through breakfast that morning that I realized it was Starlet’s urging, pushing me to go.

We should go out today.

I froze, the spoonful of cereal stuck halfway into my mouth.

Starlet, please. You know we can’t.

We have to, June. We need to.

We can’t! What’s wrong with you?

I feel… it’s just time. It’s not right to stay locked away. Not for a wolf. Not for a human. I could feel Star’s desperation, a well of frustration bubbling to the surface.

And honestly? I wanted to get out too.

It’s too dangerous. What if someone sees us? I asked, but my words were hollow.

I don’t think many will be out today.

Starlet was right, of course. It was gray, and the weather was awful. Most everyone in the pack would choose to stay inside, right?

We could take a walk through the woods. You know you’ll be hard to spot in there.

I didn’t need much more prompting.

There was a bite in the air outside, but the rain had let up. Despite that, I hustled from the back porch to the cover of the trees.

Grandmother’s house was isolated and looked out to the forests surrounding our pack. Hardly anyone ventured near here, and I had my suspicions Grandmother was behind that.

Walking through the trees was liberating. It was peaceful, quiet except for the leaves and twigs crunching and snapping beneath my feet. Birds lazily chirped from their perches above.

I wish we could feel the sun.

It was a wonderful thought. Poor Starlet had only a taste of the outside world before she was hidden away in that house with me.

Can’t you do something, June? She was pleading with me.

I wanted to. Starlet was my best friend. She’d kept me company through the worst parts of these past five years. She kept me sane and was one of the few who truly loved me.

But what could I do? It wasn’t like I could control the weather.

I’m sorry, Star. I sighed.

I felt Star deflate, her heart breaking, mine shattering along with it.

I closed my eyes, a deep sigh deflating my lungs.

What kind of life was this? We had to sneak around in our own backyard for fear of being seen. We had to risk our lives for a taste of the wind, the feeling of the sun on our skin.

If only…

Suddenly, the wind picked up, rustling the trees and disturbing the birds.

My eyes flew open as the clouds began to shift and clear, and in their place was the sun.

Brilliant and warm and bright.

I stood there, transfixed, soaking it in. I felt Star unfurl within me like a flower blooming, her spirits soaring to the sky.

I couldn’t help but laugh. Maybe this small bit of good luck was the world’s birthday present to me.

“You!”

My heart jumped as I came crashing back to reality.

The snap of a branch, a loud thump, had me whirling around in time to see a stranger, looming and unfamiliar.

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2

ROYCE

Beautiful.

Powerful.

Her hair flowed like golden silk, and even from here, I could see the green of her eyes, sparkling and joyful.

It had been five years since Juniper Evigan, the Alpha’s daughter, disappeared. People speculated she had run away to become a rogue after failing to shift. Others said she had been killed by her father, her body left to nature and time.

It was a tragedy.

When I walked into the clearing that day to see Dayton and my brother, Jacob, cornering her, I was sickened. She was gone before I could do anything though, swept away, never to be seen again.

This stranger reminded me of her so much though.

Was it possible?

Had Juniper stayed in Litmus, hidden away?

It made sense, especially all the threats Dayton’s mother spewed would happen if anyone, Dayton included, came near her or her home again. Everyone had written it off as anger and hatred over what had happened to her mate and grandchild.

What if we’d been wrong?

I had first spotted her hair flashing through the trees and followed the sound of her footsteps. Then the wind grew unnaturally, whipping everything around us until the clouds had dispersed. She stood below, soaking in the sudden light with her arms outstretched.

I knew it right away. I knew that she was special.

I knew I had to get to her.

“You!”

In my scramble to get closer, I snapped branches blocking my way and nearly tripped over a log.

“Wait!”

She startled and turned. Her eyes were so stunning, captivating.

She looked horrified and was turning to leave, muscles coiling, prepared to run. I was faster though. By the time she had taken a step in the other direction, I was closing in and blocking her escape route.

“Are you—I mean, you’re Juniper Evigan, right?”

The girl looked ready to deny it, and I knew I was right. Her eyes were wide and her mouth tightly closed. I could faintly hear her heart thumping wildly.

“I know you are. I recognize you.” I smiled, hoping to appear friendly. I did not want to scare her off.

“I-I’m not. I don’t know who you’re talking about.” She looked down, her blonde locks falling to cover her face.

“I’m Royce. You don’t need to be afraid.”

She scoffed, and I smiled wider.

“Your parents had some pictures stashed away, though I suspect they were more your grandparents’ than theirs.”

Juniper’s scowl deepened.

The wind kicked back up, the trees rustling and creaking dangerously. I looked around, the sudden wind whipping at my hair. It was almost like the world was reacting to her emotions.

JUNIPER

My heart felt like it would jump out of my chest.

I had messed everything up.

I should never have come outside. I should’ve stayed home where it was safe, where I could waste away the hours staring out of my window. The wind swirled around me, almost cutting into my skin.

Breathe, June, Star said. You’re not alone. Breathe.

I latched onto Star’s voice, using her as an anchor to center myself. I felt myself calm a little as the wind slowed, leaving behind an eerie silence.

The stranger looked at me, his eyes glinting in fascination.

I should run. I should escape as far and as quickly as possible. I should run home, pack a bag, and leave for the nearest bus station before my father caught wind that I was still here in his territory.

But the way he was smiling at me… I could count on one hand the number of people who looked at me like I mattered. Like I was someone important.

What should we do? I asked Starlet. Her response was slow and unhelpful.

I don’t know.

Starlet? I pushed for more, but she remained stubbornly quiet.

I turned my attention back to the strange man in front of me. He was tall but not very broad. Still, there was something intimidating about him. He had power, but what was it?

“What do you want?”

“I’ve been looking for you, to be honest.”

I took a step back, leaves shuffling under my shoe.

“I meant that to sound less creepy.”

“Who are you?”

“I’m Royce.”

“I’ve heard of you before.”

He smiled another charming smile, perfect white teeth flashing.

“Royce Fallon. Soon to be Alpha of the Litmus Pack.” The last words were spoken with a complicated emotion I couldn’t quite place, and it was what kept me from running away screaming. Contempt, resignation?

“You don’t sound too happy about that.”

“Would you be happy to take over for your father?”

I grimaced, and he smiled sympathetically.

“I was there five years ago. I saw what he did.” He spat, and I calmed. He clearly wasn’t a fan of my father.

“If I had gotten there sooner, I could have done something. Could have saved your grandfather.” He looked so apologetic that it was hard not to step closer and offer comfort.

“He would have gone after you as well if you had intervened.”

Royce slowly shuffled forward and sat on a fallen log with a sigh. He knew I was right.

“Your parents are cruel and don’t deserve to lead. Your whole pack is undeserving of you.”

I felt my cheeks warm. “They couldn’t go against their Alpha.”

“Everyone has a choice.”

“Aren’t you happy to be taking over?” I asked. “When my Father steps down and makes you Alpha, he won’t have control anymore. You’d be able to lead the pack better.”

“As far as I’m concerned, the pack’s inaction that day makes them just as guilty. I don’t want to be responsible for these people.”

I bit my lip, hesitant. “They could be better, with the proper leader.”

“Maybe.”

I hesitated again before joining him on the log. He smiled again. Did he ever stop? I didn’t hate it though. It only made him more handsome. His future mate would be a lucky woman.

There was something about him that made me feel relaxed, easygoing. We sat in silence for a while, my legs swinging underneath me as I sat on the log. My kicks sent small bursts of wind shooting out at the ground, leaves and dirt swirling in the air.

“Um, Juniper?”

“Yeah?”

“Is that you doing that?”

His eyes were wide, watching the play of my magic as I kicked fallen leaves in a spiral of air.

I froze, my heart pounding in my ears.

Idiot, idiot, idiot, idiot.

He looked at me expectantly as the leaves floated back down to the ground.

My heart thumped harder. Was I really going to reveal this to Royce? I didn’t know him, but—

Starlet, should we tell him?

It took her so long to answer I thought she was still giving me the silent treatment.

I think you should.

Well.

There you go.

“Yes.”

ROYCE

Magic.

She had magic.

Elemental magic.

Powerful, strong magic.

How could her father be so foolish? How could the pack? To throw away such a gift? To waste it? If I hadn’t found her today, would she have stayed hidden away from the world?

Juniper was useful. Her father was too blind to see how much of an asset she could be.

I could though.

The day her father cast her aside on her birthday was the day he made his first mistake. Making me his heir over my brother was his second.

Dayton thought my brother was a disappointment. He had failed to get Juniper to shift that day, after all. Jacob was shunned. Just as Dayton had abandoned Juniper, he’d done so with Jacob.

Quick to move on, he’d named me successor instead.

I wondered where he was now.

Maybe he’d turned rogue, wandering in the wilderness.

“You have my word. No one will know what you can do.”

She smiled in relief.

“You shouldn’t have to hide it though. What you can do, Juniper, it’s a gift. One that shouldn’t be hidden.”

“That’s what my grandmother says.”

“She’s smart. I saw her take you away. That day. I hoped she had done right by you.”

“She saved me. If it weren’t for her hiding me all these years, my father would have found me and probably killed me like—” she choked on her words.

“Your grandfather.”

She nodded, solemn. The sky darkened as the clouds drifted back in. We sat in silence for a while. The slump of her shoulders made me want to curl my arm around her, to comfort her and tell her everything would be all right.

I’d probably scare her away.

“I almost forgot. Happy birthday,” I said.

Surprise flashed across her face.

“How did you know?”

“Your birthday is kind of hard to forget, especially after what your father did.”

“Oh. Thanks, I think.”

“What are you doing to celebrate?” I smiled at her, satisfied that I had pulled her away from her thoughts for now.

“Nothing really. Honestly, you kind of walked into the middle of my present to me. I haven’t been out in years.” She gave out a half-hearted laugh, hiding behind the curtain of her hair.

I was shocked but also not surprised. It was no wonder no one had seen her in five years. I could only imagine how lonely she must have been, cooped up for so long, trapped in her own home…

“We have to do something then!” I grabbed her hand and yanked her to her feet. She followed reluctantly but with a curious gleam in her eye.

“I don’t know. I should get back before anyone else sees me.”

“No one will go running to your father. I promise. As the Alpha-heir, I do have some sway. For some reason, people want to be on my good side.” I winked at her.

She laughed, sweet and melodic. Her cheeks flushed a delicious pink hue, and I had to rein in my beast’s primal urges.

Now was not the time.

“Lead the way then, Alpha-to-be.” She spoke between laughs as we walked hand in hand through the forest.

JUNIPER

Royce was charming. His looks didn’t hurt either. With swooping hair and devilish eyes that could tempt even the most chaste woman, he was undeniably attractive.

While that might have had something to do with my decision to go with him, it was more than his looks that had me walking beside him. He was nice, sympathetic, and Starlet didn’t seem to have a problem with the guy.

To my surprise, he led us deeper into the woods. He moved silently compared to my stomping. Nearby, I heard the trickle of a stream, a soothing melody to the tune of the forest.

“Where are we going?”

He smiled at me over his shoulder.

“My house.”

The tree line broke suddenly, and we stood in a clearing. It was spacious and rustic.

A small cabin stood in the middle with luscious gardens surrounding it. It was stunning.

Between bushes and towering vegetable plants, I thought I saw a person. They were flitting back and forth, picking food from the garden. They were too far away and hidden by the plants for me to make out any details, but they looked small.

When they moved and I saw eyes peeking between leaves and stalks, I ducked my head. Royce may be trustworthy, but that didn’t mean everyone was.

“Come on.” Royce tugged me toward the front door and inside.

The interior was just as rustic as the outside looked. It felt homey and inviting.

I was envious.

Royce led me deeper into the house, our steps echoing against the hardwood floor. I was suddenly acutely aware of his hand around mine, how big and warm it felt.

My heart began to beat faster, and I was afraid he’d be able to feel my pulse thumping away.

After what felt like an age, we arrived at a door. He opened it and held it open for me, smiling that dazzling smile of his. I looked down at my feet as I pushed past him, trying to hide my face behind my hair.

I was ambushed by the assault of butterflies in my stomach.

This was his bedroom.

It smelled like him.

I jumped a little as I heard the soft click of the door shutting closed.

“Have a seat,” he said from behind me. “Make yourself at home.”

My eyes scanned the room in a half-panic. It was quite bare. Shelves lined a wall filled with books and journals, and a wide bed was pushed up against the corner.

I perched myself on the edge of his bed, back straight, completely tensed up. Royce was attractive; there was no doubt about that. Just the thought of him getting close to me sent my stomach into a flurry of somersaults.

But I’d never even kissed a boy before. Was I really ready for something like this?

Royce sat down next to me, his weight causing the bed to shake. My heart kicked into overdrive as he stared into my eyes.

He smiled at me.

“We’re finally alone.”

 

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