J. M. Johnson
“Just look at it, Thomas! Fifteen years old and she’s yet to shift!”
“It’s not the shifting we need to be concerned about, Helen. The poor girl is the weight of a full-grown male wolf. It's an embarrassment.
He sighed. “Not a single wolf has even looked in her direction! We’ll never be able to mate her off and get her out of our hair at this rate!”
“Even the alpha has started laughing at our bad fortune. I swear on the hand of the great Goddess, we would have fared better had we remained childless. She’ll never pass as a beta, she can barely pass through a doorway!” Helen said.
“Helen!” Thomas said with a laugh and a playful shake of his head.
“Oh come now, Tom, you know it to be true! Poor Alpha Duke is mortified after you revealed her little secret! At least his future mate doesn’t have to worry about any competition!”
She sneered. “Who could possibly be threatened by a plain Jane like our daughter? Just get her out of my sight! She’s an abomination!”
I shook my head to clear the ghosts of my past. It seemed the closer I got to my home pack, the louder the voices of my parents resounded through my mind.
My wolf was almost feral as she growled her temper, demanding that I set her free with every mile we drove closer.
She wanted to wreak havoc on all those who had shamed and humiliated us, but I wouldn’t allow her to have her freedom.
I never usually denied my wolf her needs.
We had spent so many years apart, struggling to connect, that when she finally came through for me when I needed her the most, I had sworn to make her the happiest wolf the world had known.
Except this time. This time I had to put my foot down and ordered her back into the deepest, darkest corner of my mind.
And I warned her to suppress her powers—we both needed reigning in.
It would do us no good to reveal all of our cards, this was a game of cat and mouse that needed to be played very carefully. I knew that now
Too many times I had laid all my cards on the table, only to find myself cheated and robbed as those that should have protected me fed me to the wolves—no pun intended.
My wolf chuffed in my head, letting me know that she had heard my inner monologue and she wasn’t happy about it, but she wasn’t going to push the matter any further.
She had never forgiven herself.
Even though she didn’t know why she hadn’t been able to come forward and claim me sooner than she did, that didn’t stop her from blaming herself for everything that had happened.
While it was true that I may have been able to defend myself better had I had the advanced, honed senses I have today, it wouldn’t have saved me completely.
Having my wolf wouldn’t have made me a mind reader, and it wouldn’t have stopped others from wanting to hurt me.
I swung my car around the corner with more force than necessary, blaring the horn at the idiot in front of me. I was restless, my skin prickling.
Duke was close by. I knew that as surely as I knew the sky was blue.
The awareness that ran through my body didn’t surprise me as much as I thought it would have.
Subconsciously, I’d always known that the feelings I’d had for him had never completely faded.
His dad, the old alpha, would laugh along with my beta parents and mock me for my teenage crush, but I knew it was so much more than that.
Duke had managed to reach a part of me that I thought had been lost forever—thanks to the hurtful, spiteful words my parents spat at me.
No! My wolf raged suddenly, reminding me why we had to be strong.
Duke is not the hero he pretends to be, Grace. Remember that! she hissed.
I straightened my back as I indicated the last turn before I reached “home.”
No, Duke was certainly not the hero he liked to portray. He was a monster.
The kind that preyed on vulnerable teenagers, striking when they needed love and affection the most, only to shove them to the side once he’d gotten his satisfaction.
Although that wasn’t strictly true.
He had never tried to get me to go any further than I was comfortable with, and had turned me down when I tried to make our relationship sexual.
Not that it made what he did any better. He had promised me so many things, things that he’d backpedaled on as soon as things got slightly more difficult.
I had been so young and naive, wanting to believe in myself and Duke so desperately that I had allowed myself to be wooed with empty words.
I would never be that person again. I now saw the true meaning behind his gentle touches and his soft-spoken words.
He had been grooming me, wanting to be the one to “break in” the fat she-wolf who couldn’t shift.
It had been no secret that my parents despised me. They were both betas born and bred, their parents before them also betas.
They had wanted a boy, had planned for a boy, bought for a boy and what did they end up with?
An embarrassment, if their tales were to be believed.
I had always been on the larger side, struggling to control my weight ever since I was a child.
It had been all too easy to steal into the packhouse kitchen in the dead of the night.
The chef there took a liking to me, telling me stories of her childhood abroad as I ate all the snacks and then some.
I laughed along with her as she told me about her life and imagined a world far away from the hell I was living.
Of course, as soon as my parents found out, they had given Priscilla two choices. Leave as a rogue or be executed on the spot.
I never heard her answer, but I did receive her teeth in a small box the next day.
I never mentioned that incident to anyone and never again did I steal away to the kitchen—yet the habit had already been learned.
Instead of visiting the kitchens, I would stash whatever food I could find, taking double portions whenever I had the opportunity: one for now, one for later.
The more my weight grew, the more my parents resented me, which meant my eating habits grew worse. It was a vicious circle, with only one victim at the center.
The resentment and hatred between my parents and me built so high that it was inevitable the wall would come crashing down.
Thinking of that day, the day I had lost everything, still managed to tear at my heart with the worst possible pain.
I had never forgiven, and I would never forget. I had missed my mother’s funeral, chosen to say goodbye in my own way.
I would not pretend for the sake of saving face and presenting a united front for the pack.
I had spent five years reinventing myself, trying to let the demons die and move on.
Stupid girl. I should have known that a past like mine would never stay hidden.
I smirked as I caught a glance at myself in the rearview mirror.
I had succeeded in one area of my reinvention, at least. It would be a wonder if Duke even recognized who I was.
So long as my wolf kept her promise and reigned herself in, he would never know the warrior we had become.
He would see me as the bimbo blonde with nothing to offer, and honestly? I was okay with that.
I would strike when I was ready, and not a moment sooner.
I began to scent Grace long before the headlights to her car came into view.
If anyone else had entered this pack via a car it would raise some eyebrows, yet nothing else was expected of Grace.
She could hardly come crashing through the forest in her wolf skin, could she?
I had felt sorry for her growing up.
Many children feel as though they are living in someone else’s shadow, whether it be the boy who has to follow in his father’s footsteps and lead the pack, or the girl who wants to train just as hard as her brother, but was either ignored or fell short of the expectations.
Grace was much worse. She was living in the shadow of a child that didn’t exist but that her parents still loved.
Even in my bitterness, I could see that. She had been starved of affection.
That was the only thing that had stopped me from following after her and ripping the head from her shoulders for the hurt she had caused.
She did what she did to feel love. Goddess knew she never got any from her parents—not the way a child deserves.
Everything she did, they would imagine what could have been had they been given a son.
If she achieved academically, their son would have done better. If she was a brilliant cook, it paled in comparison to the dishes their son would have rustled up with minimum effort.
When Grace showed signs of being a Nul—a wolf that was unable to shift, this only solidified the shitty hand her parents had been dealt.
They believed they had angered the Moon Goddess somehow, and so they made a pact to become the best betas for miles around, often leaving Grace to fend for herself—with yet another expectation hanging over her head.
I had done what I could for her, displaying small acts of kindness whenever my hectic schedule allowed. But I knew that on more than one occasion things had almost gone too far.
My wolf growled, the noise vibrating through my temples, reminding me that Grace was not ours, had never been ours. She had shown us that all too clearly.
When we had been ready to lay our heart on the table, she had stomped all over it, bursting it under her stiletto heel as she offered herself to another.
A wolf that she should never have been messing with. But it seemed that she couldn’t help herself.
“She’s disgusting,” I reminded myself as the headlights on the car slammed shut and the sound of gravel crunching underneath soft shoes became louder.
As much as I wanted to believe that, I couldn’t help but picture her soft, curved body pressed against mine.
The memory of that night had haunted me for years.
I had stroked myself so many times, imagining what would have happened had we gotten to live the life we had planned.
I would have pulled her body closer to mine; her tits would have been more than a handful, the creamy mounds spilling over the top of her bra as my hands cupped them, running my tongue along the silky skin.
I saw her head tipped back, her parted lips glistening as her tongue ran across them, heard her soft, breathy moans of my name.
Every time had been a vision of perfection, making me cum against my hand as she rode me in my imagination, sending our bodies into heights of pleasure she had never experienced before.
So many nights I had lain awake, full of regrets. Yet I wasn’t the one that caused this.
She did this. She ruined it.
Still, as much as I wanted to deny it, I was looking forward to seeing her once more. To seeing if the connection was still there.
The door slammed open, leaving a dent in the wall as it crashed against it.
I scented the warm, vanilla scent of Grace, smirking as I prepared for the pathetic, fake innocence she would present. I looked up at her and my mouth fell open.
Gone was the chubby girl with the unruly curls and freckled face of my dreams. What stood before me was a goddess.
Her long legs seemed to stretch forever, her skin golden and smooth. Her dress brushed against her thighs, floating with every move she made.
Her hips were curved slightly, her hands planted on either side, pushing out her small, firm tits.
She threw her straight blonde hair over her shoulder and looked me dead in the eye with a hatred that covered the distance between us and seared into my skin.
She was strong, lean, muscled. Utter destruction, yet devastatingly gorgeous.
Her lips curled back over her teeth in a snide smile as she looked down her nose at me.
“Hello, Duke,” she breathed, her voice husky and seductive. “Did you miss me?”
I opened my mouth, ready to spit back at her, when my wolf beat me to it.
He pounded forward, knocking against my skull as he roared.
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