I was born hidden from the world. Our pack lived high up in the mountains, surrounded by acres of forest. We lived happily in our seclusion, enjoying the nature around us.
When I was born, my mother and father were so excited. They had been trying for years for another child after having my brother. I was their miracle. I was also their nightmare.
At the age of three, I began showing signs of having a special, rare ability.
I was a healer.
Healers were rare in the wolf community. And to have a healer in a pack was powerful. My ability terrified my parents for a long time.
It still does, but now they’ve grown used to it, and I think they hope I’ll find a mate within our pack. It’s the safest option.
My alarm went off early in the morning, and I rolled over with a groan before getting up and ready for the day.
As a healer, I helped in the clinic as the receptionist and to treat the occasional bad wounds. I walked out to the kitchen to find my mom sleepily nursing a cup of coffee.
“Coffee?” she asked, still half asleep.
“I’ll get it…you might tip over,” I teased as I grabbed a mug from the cupboard. I took a sip of the warm liquid before looking around the room. “Where’s Dad?”
“He already left for the day. Something about helping the protectors this morning,” my mom replied as she attempted to straighten herself with a stretch.
“Titus still sleeping?” I asked sarcastically, knowing my older brother was most likely passed out.
“Mhm...oh, I should probably wake him. He has training in twenty minutes,” my mom said before taking another sip and trotting down the hall.
I grabbed my bag and walked out of the Alpha apartment and down the stairs of the packhouse. I walked outside and down the road, watching the protectors warm up on the field.
I caught the eye of my father, who jogged over with a smile. “Good morning, Squish.”
“How on earth are you so chipper? It’s 6:30 in the morning,” I asked with a sideways glance.
My father gave an innocent shrug and a soft tap on my arm before jogging back to the field.
When I walked into the clinic, I set my bag down and headed to the backroom to start a fresh pot of coffee. I stood against the cabinet with my eyes half shut as I waited.
“Morning, Em!” Matt chimed as he walked into the room.
I jumped a bit at the sound and gave him a good glare. “That was not nice.”
“But it was funny,” Matt chuckled as he threw an arm around my shoulder. “How are you doing?”
“Good, just not quite present yet. You have a couple of appointments this morning, but nothing else until later,” I replied as I grabbed a mug from the cabinet.
“Good, good,” Matt said absently before stealing my cup of coffee and leaving the room.
I watched him leave the room, shaking my head at him before pouring another cup. I liked Matt. He was a nice guy, and I would be lying if I said I didn’t find him attractive.
His dirty blond hair and chocolate eyes were warm and inviting. He had always been kind to me and had taught me a lot since working in the clinic.
He was several years older than me, but I hoped he would end up as my mate. I liked that we both helped people. But I wouldn’t find out for another week, on my twenty-first birthday.
“Can he be our mate? Pleeeaase?~”~my wolf, River, whined as we watched him walk away.
“Only one more week,” I whispered to myself before walking out of the back room to take my seat at the front desk.
I looked up with a smile as the bell on the door rang. “Good morn—Dad! What happened?” I hollered, rushing over to one of the limping boys he was helping walk into the clinic.
“These two yahoos thought it would be a good idea to start a fight they obviously couldn’t finish,” my dad replied with irritation.
“Alpha, good morning. Looks like we’ve got some nice gashes here,” Matt stated as he walked out, pulling on some exam gloves.
We walked them back to an exam room to be checked out. I watched as Matt cleaned and dressed their wounds.
“These should be healed by this evening, but I want you to keep them clean until then. Got it?”
“Yes, sir…,” they both replied quietly.
As they jumped down from the exam tables, one of them groaned in pain. “My chest…” he moaned.
After Matt and my father helped him back up, Matt found a couple of broken ribs. They all turned to me, and I gave a small smile.
“Our turn,” I whispered, my wolf purring in reply.
I stood beside the table and closed my eyes, rubbing my hands together. When I opened them, I placed my hands on his chest above the broken ribs.
Warmth flowed from my hands, and I held them there for a few moments before lifting them.
“Better?” I asked with a smile.
“Much. Thank you,” the young protector grinned.
My father squeezed my shoulders before helping them out of the clinic.
“I still can’t get over how you do that,” Matt said as we watched them leave. “It’s an amazing gift.”
“Thanks,” I replied quietly, knowing it caused more problems than it solved.
Only the people in our pack knew my secret. The pack was sworn to secrecy by my father. The command of an Alpha was final, and in this case, punishment for breaking that command was severe.
I didn’t like that, but my parents insisted it was to keep me and our entire pack safe. “Wars have been waged for far less,” my father would always tell me.
And because I was special, I would have every alpha in the world on our doorstep to try and either mate me or steal me away.
But in a week, I would find my mate and wouldn’t have to worry about it anymore.
“Mom, this is ridiculous. Why on Earth are we having such a big party?” I huffed as I tried on my seventh dress.
“Well, somehow several packs heard that the Alpha’s daughter has come of age, and now a small pack gathering has turned into a giant event,” my mother huffed, irritated that my father had even agreed to this event.
“Now try this one on,” she said as she held up another dress, much to my dismay.
I was nervous about tomorrow. I would have to hide my abilities for who knows how long until I could trust whomever my mate was. Unless I got lucky and it ended up being Matt.
For the first time in a long time, I didn’t wake up to an alarm. I had the day off to prepare for this evening. As I rolled over and took a good stretch, I lay quietly thinking about what today meant.
I would find a mate.
I would find a mate.
Panic washed over me. I had been told my whole life what would happen if outsiders found out my secret. Today, the entire pack house would be filled with outsiders.
“Calm down…,~”~ River hummed. ~“~Whoever our mate is, he is MEANT for us. Hiding it for one day won’t kill us. Now take a breath before you pass out.~”~
I sat up in bed and took a deep breath, closing my eyes and placing my hands on my chest. I let the warmth wash over me, calming me until I was able to let go of my anxieties about tonight.
I opened my eyes to see my mother peeking in from the door. “Hey, Mom,” I smiled, finally calm.
My mother and father walked in and sat on the bed, wrapping their arms around me. “Happy birthday, Squish,” my dad said as he wrapped me in a bear hug.
“So…today…,” my mom said with a nervous smile.
“Today…,” I repeated, not quite knowing what to say.
My father’s face went serious, “We’ve had this talk before, but I—”
“I know, guys,” I interrupted, placing a calming hand on each of my parents. “No using my abilities today. At all. I won’t speak of it, or mention it to anyone. You don’t need to worry.”
My mother took a deep breath. “I know that you know this, but we’ve never been around so many strangers…”
“Hey, for all we know my mate lives in our pack and this evening will go by without any problems,” I replied hopefully.
“Ohhhh…maybe Matt…,~”~River purred. I knew she liked him. He was kind, and she enjoyed his teasing. I rolled my eyes at her but hoped the same.
“Well then, let’s head down for breakfast. We have a lot to do today,” my mother said with a smile and a pat on my knee.
I spent the day helping set up for the party, keeping myself busy so I wouldn’t have to think about my future mate or the fact he might be from another pack.
In the afternoon I made my way upstairs to get ready for the party. When I stepped out of my closet, my mom let out a small gasp.
“What?” I asked with wide eyes. “Is it bad?” I turned to the mirror to find myself in a dark, emerald-green tea-length dress. It was simple, yet flowy and elegant.
My long, dark brown hair had been curled and flowed in waves down my back and around my shoulders, and my hazel eyes seemed to pop from the color of my dress and the light makeup I had put on.
“Hun, there’s nothing wrong! You look beautiful!” my mother cried as she held tight to my shoulders. “Let’s head down, people will be arriving soon.”
I let out a long breath before hooking my arm in my mom’s. “Let’s get this over with…”
In the summer, the evenings were warm and full of light and fireflies.
We walked outside to the large, outdoor event area where we saw hundreds of people gathered to celebrate and to see who would be the mate of the Alpha’s daughter.
I held on a little tighter to my mom as we walked down the hill and stepped onto the grass. My father approached us with a smile and a hug. “You look beautiful, Squish.”
I chuckled at the fact that even at a semiformal pack event, he still called me by my nickname. We walked around the edge of the event area before stopping by the large platform in the front.
“Welcome to the members of our pack, and to all those visiting tonight to celebrate the birthday of my daughter, Emery!” my father began.
“We have food, we have drinks, and we have music. Please enjoy yourselves!”
He stepped down and led me out to the dance floor, where we twirled around to the music for a while. I was glad for my father; he was always able to make things fun.
After dancing and talking with what I’m sure was every single male in existence, I was finally given a chance to break off and grab something to eat.
“Oh my gosh, thank goodness…,” I whispered to myself as I stuffed half a hamburger in my mouth.
“Do they not feed you in the pack house?”
With my eyes wide and my cheeks full, I slowly turned around at the voice I knew well. “Matt!” I choked as I attempted to quickly eat my burger.
“Happy birthday, Em,” he smiled brightly.
“Thanks, Mattie,” I replied with a grin before realizing nothing was happening
“Sorry, hun, it looks like it’s not him…,~”~River whined in disappointment.
I gave a small smile in an attempt to hide my disappointment. I was surprised when Matt took my hand in his and stepped closer, his face almost touching mine as he spoke low.
“I won’t lie and say I’m not disappointed right now, Em. I was really hoping for us to—”
Suddenly Matt was pulled backward. A tall, gruff man held him by the shirt collar. “How dare you touch her,” he growled.