Book 1: Rejected Mate
You know those stories about unwanted rejects whose loved ones either died or abandoned them to drift aimlessly through the world—a worthless no one, almost invisible to other people?
There is nothing spectacular about them, no grand rise from nothing to something as they dawn into adulthood.
Yeah, well, that’s kind of my story.
My name is Alora Dennison, and I am literally hours away from my awakening ceremony at the ripe old age of eighteen, and absolutely no one who gives a crap about me will be there.
No support, no family, and definitely no friends.
I’m a late bloomer, I guess.
Not that it’s unusual in my bloodline, as almost every female in my family didn’t “come out” until they hit their late teens, from what I can remember, much like the others in the orphanage stuck here with me.
Another reason we are snubbed and left to our own devices in this hellhole they call a home.
My ceremony has me churned up inside and restlessly pacing the room I share with Vanka.
She’s like me, although in all the years we’ve bunked together, I can’t say we have ever become friends of any kind.
She makes it clear she doesn’t like me and, much like everyone around me, they all keep their distance. We tolerate one another, but none of us has ever bonded.
I’m an orphaned no-one whose parents died in the war ten years ago against the vampires. So is she, but it didn’t warm her to me in any way.
I guess because she’s from a leg of the Santo pack, and they have hated the Whyte pack since long before the war.
We were feuding before the vampires united every one of us, and old scars and grudges are not something that wolves let go of quickly.
We were two small girls left with no immediate blood link guardians, put in this place for unwanted cubs to live out our days in unexceptional ways.
It would have been kinder to end our misery back then than leave us to live as outcasts among our people, our own kind—shunned because we are the shameful proof that their packs failed them.
I don’t think they knew what else to do with us. So many young with no one left to care for them and raise them in our ways, and seen as cursed.
They were ashamed of the failings of our families, and we are the ones to carry that burden like an eternal black mark painted on our faces.
I’m amazed that kids like us even get to go through with the ceremony. I mean, it’s kind of a big deal, and we are kind of not.
We’re a bit like the lost boys in Neverland, except… none of us wants to stay here, and growing up is the only way out.
Your awakening is a bit like graduation, in a sense. It’s a passing from child to adult and usually where you would find your place and rank in the pack and get a mate.
I have no delusions that it means anything of the sort for any of us turning tonight.
There are four from the unwanted home, and I hear maybe three from the packs around. Just a handful of kids trying to break free, find their path, and all in the fabulous presence of the entire “packdom.”
The packdom is the dozen or so wolf tribes from the state. They all have to convene on Shadow Rock to watch you transform fully for the first time under the first full moon of your birth month.
It’s not hard to figure out when you’re ready.
In the weeks running up to your birthday, you start to change in small ways, and, goddamn, it hurts like having your insides snapped and stretched in fits of severe twisting pain with zero control over it happening.
The signs are pretty clear to all. Kind of like puberty for werewolves, I guess—maturing, physical improvements, and a massive rise in appetite and aggression.
Little moments where you start to transform painfully, and then it dissipates as quickly, so you never really reach the first transition, but it’s reported, and no one can hide it.
The pain you know will come with the first time is saved for the full moon after your birthday.
Some don’t go through it until later in life and some earlier. Usually, it is a sign of where you stand in the hierarchy when you turn.
According to the Santo elders, the longer it takes, the weaker your DNA, but my parents never mentioned it when I was young.
So, being eighteen puts me way down on the pecking order and confirms my bloodline was not that of warriors or strong enough to be anything of importance.
Vanka is sixteen and turning tonight, too, but with Santo’s blood somewhere in her veins, she should have turned far earlier. I guess whatever mix is in her is why they reject her as one of their own.
I mean, look at the Santos. They are the reigning pack in the state, and everyone in their bloodline turned before ten.
Colton, the next heir as alpha, is nineteen years old, lords over all in our kingdom, and has been running with the pack since he was a mere eight years old.
Every single one of his family returned from the wars, which speaks volumes about the purity of their genes, strength, and abilities in battle.
He’s destined to take over from his father as alpha one day, and the way things are heading, he won’t just be alpha of the Santo pack, but all of us.
It has never happened in our lifetime, but it will begin a new dawn in how the packs live.
Santo is not a nice guy. None of them are. He walks around surrounded by his sub-pack, looks down at the likes of us, and never makes eye contact or responds to anyone below his station.
That’s how it works here. Dominance and strength are everything to wolves. He has his father’s arrogance, and he knows that every female hitting puberty craves to become his mate.
He hasn’t officially paired or marked yet, and despite having the same girl always by his side, he’s fair game until he does.
Colton is faultlessly good-looking in that dark Latino, pretty boy way with far too handsome a face.
He’s over six feet of muscle, radiates aggression without trying, and is a rare black-furred wolf on turning, one of the largest among us.
I think the one time he acknowledged my existence was the day he pushed me out of his way in passing.
I tripped in front of him in the hallway to the great hall, and he didn’t bat an eye or miss a step in shoving me back aggressively like I was a lightweight piece of trash.
All the girls laughed at me when I landed on my ass and skidded back into the trashcan, and I’ve made sure never to get in his way again.
Not that we have much time in the same place. I live in the orphanage and go to the school built purely for our kind, away from “normal” people.
He was ahead of me by one year, so we didn’t often cross paths in all that time.
Since he lives with his pack on the south side of the mountain, only coming to the shadowy north when required, I never see him or any of his subordinates.
Like all the rest of the people who avoid the “rejects.”
After the Great War, our people moved from all surrounding areas and convened nearer the mountain, keeping close to stay protected, and no one ever left again.
His father is the unofficial dominant alpha and likes to check in with all on the mountain when he sees fit.
Since Colton graduated from school, we only see him for official visits at his father’s side, lording over their newfound kingdom of obedient and submissive packs, keeping law and order.
Rumor has it the vampires have been brewing and gathering for several months, maybe even years, to regain numbers and launch a new war on our kind.
We always knew they would. I mean, we won the battle, but we didn’t defeat them in the way we wanted.
Many survived, fled, and have been out there for almost ten years, recovering from it and licking their wounds.
It’s been quiet for so long, eerily so, but there is so much unease and unrest in the air that the packs called together a meeting a month back to decide the fate of our future.
Trouble was stirring, and we could all feel it, our senses on high alert with that vibe that something huge was coming.
They think coming together to create one pack and one unity is the answer to a brewing war. Not that it changes much, as we have been living almost that way for a decade.
We were never united before under one alpha, though. We fought as separate packs, and it almost wiped us out.
There was no leadership, and it meant packs like mine, known for peaceful living and farming, were virtually annihilated. Many of our kin never returned, and it forever changed those who did.
Those like me, who lost everyone—my parents, grandparents, uncles, and my brother—are shunned by people who like to pretend it never happened.
My family was lost, none of them came back, and therefore, in the eyes of the pack hierarchy… my bloodline is weak.
They don’t want to claim us as their kind anymore, and they sure as hell don’t want us procreating and spreading our genes to future wolves.
Warriors came home. The weak did not.
We were never ready for it.
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