“Thanks!” I holler before the door closes behind me. “See you tomorrow!”
I brace myself against the cold wind by wrapping my scarf toward my mouth and stuff both of my hands in my pockets. I knew I should’ve worn gloves.
My heels click against the newly salted sidewalk as the fresh blanket of snow glistens from the streetlamps overhead.
Ten o’clock on a Wednesday night, and I’m still wide enough awake to notice every detail of my surroundings.
Once in my car and warm, I shed my excess layers—scarf, coat, and jacket—before pulling out of the parking garage owned by the company I work for and make my way home.
It’s just after eleven when I pull into the driveway. The porch light is on, as always. My mom can’t go to sleep until I’m home, even though I am almost twenty-three.
“I’m home!” I shut the door as the wind picks up behind me. It sends chills down my spine as my mom comes through the living room to greet me.
“Temperance, you promised no more late nights!” she scolds as I hang my coat and scarf on the hook.
“Mama, I’m sorry, but they needed things done for tomorrow’s review.” I exhale. “The more work I do, the more likely I am to get that promotion in a few weeks.”
My mom rolls her gray eyes and hugs me. Her hands are warm against my thin white blouse.
“Your father is out on another hunt with the boys. Won’t be home until Saturday evening at the earliest.”
“Gotcha.” I nod as we go into the kitchen where a cup of hot chocolate is already waiting for me.
Ever since my two younger brothers, Liam and Chase turned sixteen, our father has taken them hunting weekly in the mountains behind our house.
“Ya know, the two of them are only two years younger but get out so much more than me.” I snicker. “Probably just the wolf thing, right?”
Yep, that’s right. My brothers are werewolves, and so is my father. My mother, his mate, is human, and I got the human trait as well. I’m not complaining either.
Growing up in a pack full of animalistic people and watching them wrestle with their emotions and wolves, I’m happy to be human. Less I have to deal with.
“Oh, Temperance, you get out.” My mother stares at me blankly for a minute, as if trying to think of the last time I actually went out with friends or on a date.
I’ve been working since I was sixteen. Our family isn’t the richest in the pack, so I’ve had to help make ends meet while my dad and mom tried the best that they could to raise my brothers and me.
I would never fault any of my family for how my life is. I’m happy and content with my work life and personal life.
That was until recently though. Turns out Chase’s mate, Serena, is the daughter of the Alpha.
Since this was revealed, we were moved from the poorer neighborhood and into the house right down the street to the pack house.
My mother and father no longer have to work, and my other brother Liam is going to be in training to become a warrior.
“Mama, I’ve been meaning to talk to you about something while it’s just us.” I set my now empty hot chocolate down and grab my mother’s hands. They’re small and frail compared to my father’s calloused ones.
“Since the boys and you and Papa are going to be taken care of, I’ve been thinking of —”
“I know, baby.” My mother’s eyes fill with tears, but a wide smile is planted on her face. “I saw the apartment magazines on your desk while I was cleaning earlier.”
“Oh, Mama…” I burst into tears.
My entire life, my family has been the center of my attention. My brothers were always troublemakers, and my father was my protector.
My mom, though, had to have been my closest friend for the past twenty-two years of my life.
“My baby girl is all grown up and ready to fly the nest.” She wipes her tears before wiping mine and squeezes my hands.
“Temperance, I always knew the pack life wasn’t for you the moment we discovered you didn’t have the wolf gene.
“As your mother, it wouldn’t be right for me to hold you back from this decision. That being said, your father is going to have a fit. And so are your brothers.”
“Which is weird for those two. I’m the older one, and they treat me as if I’m their younger sibling.”
I pull off my hat and run my fingers through my hair. My exhaustion has hit me full swing.
“Do you work tomorrow?” My mother takes my cup and puts it in the sink.
“I do.” I admit. “Only from eight to ten, though. The twenty-hour shift I did today got me in good with the boss.”
“You better head on upstairs then.” My mother kisses my forehead. “You also have to pick out an outfit for Saturday with me soon.
“I have to go to the pack house and help Serena with the decorations though. I won’t be home until like six tomorrow.”
“Ah, that.” I make an uncomfortable face, remembering that my brother’s marking ceremony is Saturday when he comes back home with Dad and Liam.
“It’s a wolf thing, honey.” My mom simply shrugs. “Your father and I had the same. But mating was—”
“Ah! Okay! Goodnight, Mama!”
I hear my mother’s laughter as I climb the stairs and head to bed.
“Tom, I need these papers organized by Friday at the latest, you got it?” My coworker nods to me before hurrying out of my office and to his own.
I rub my temples and push my hair back. It’s currently just after noon, over two hours since I was supposed to leave. My boss hasn’t come out of her office since the review started, and I’m drowning in her paperwork.
“I need a latte.” I groan and put my head against the desk. My back is killing me from both sitting and standing for too long.
“Latte,” a voice says. I peek through my hair to see my best friend, Talia, standing there with an extra-large hot white-chocolate latte extended out to me.
“Thanks.” I smile weakly and lift myself up. Straightening my things, Talia sits in a chair in front of my desk and takes a sip of her own coffee.
“Girl, I don’t know how you do it.” She sips her coffee. “Nora should be doing this, not you.”
“Talia, like I’ve said before, I need this—”
“Promotion in order to move into your own place, I get it.” Talia rolls her eyes at my overplayed sonnet and sighs. “I’ve already told you that you can move in with me. Walker won’t mind it.”
“Talia, I love you, but I already live with three wolves—one being my horny, unmated brother. I can’t imagine living with a mated pair who aren’t my parents.”
I take a sip of my latte and simmer in espresso heaven before going straight back to work.
“It’s a standing offer, love.” Talia stands and straightens her skirts. “Better get to work myself. Those fabric orders aren’t going to write themselves.”
The company I work for deals in fashion, models, and distributing fabrics to nearby stores. Talia is in the ordering department while I’m our boss’s assistant.
My main goal is to become a fashion designer myself. That’s what I’m in school for, but with how things are leading, my life will be spent in the sales department.
That’s the big promotion everyone in the company like me is competing for.
Talia actually got this job before me. I got the assistant job by chance when I visited during her lunch break. My boss, Nora, took one look at me and hired me on the spot.
In the entire company of over a thousand workers, I’m the only human.
“Temperance.” Nora smiles broadly as she bursts through the glass doors. “The review went by smoother than a newborn pup’s fur! Excellent work, as always!”
“Thank you, Nora.” I nod. “Your paperwork is almost done, and the dry cleaning will be picked up by your nanny while she’s out with Lily.”
“All good news!” Nora looks over my desk and taps her finger. “Your outfit and entire aura are marvelous today.”
I look down. Today I’m wearing a simple white blouse again, but with a bright-red knee-length skirt and six-inch heels. My hair is curled with a braid to the side.
“You’re too kind, Nora.” I say sheepishly. “You always say to present the company, so I try my best to.”
“Yes…” Nora looks me over once more before smiling. “How long have you worked for me, Temperance?”
Nora takes a seat on my desk and crosses her legs, putting the paperwork to the side. “I’ll have someone else finish this for you.”
“I can finish it myself, Nora. But to answer your question, a little over three years.” I say cautiously. Usually, when Nora sits on my desk like this, she inquiries about my life.
“Mhm… and out of those three years, how much time have we spent together?” She gets closer.
“A lot, Nora.”
“But not enough, darling!” Nora picks herself off my desk and whips herself around effortlessly. “You must come to my house this weekend for dinner! My mate and I will serve you and your family a nice holiday dinner!
“It will be my thanks for all of the help you’ve provided for me over the years. My youngest daughter, Lily, will be there of course! While my other two… Let’s just say, more than likely, will not be.”
Nora is older than me, though she doesn’t look a day over thirty. She’s the prime age of forty-five with a twelve-year-old daughter and two twin boys who are around my age.
Her mate, William, owns a share in the pack’s stocks so they’re one of the wealthiest families in the pack.
“Saturday night after your brother’s ceremony should work fine!” Nora walks to my door and says over her shoulder, “For your hard work, please take Friday to Sunday off, my lovely!”
“Mama, I’m home!” I announce as I come through the door.
“Temperance, what happened to being home by eleven this morning?” my mom complains as I come into the kitchen.
“I know, I’m sorry. Paperwork got piled up because of the review we had.” I slump into the chair I sat at last night and rub my temples.
“Are you okay, sweetie?” My mom feels my forehead with the back of her hand and lingers there. “You seem to have a fever.”
“I’m fine, Mama,” I grumble. “Just exhausted.”
It’s just after eight in the evening now. First the twenty-hour day yesterday and the twelve-hour day today. My body is usually okay with doing these longer days—why is it acting up like this?
“Here, let’s get you up to bed.”
My mom follows me as we make it into my bedroom. I slip off my heels and sit slowly on my bed. All of my joints ache, and this headache is getting worse by the second.
My mom helps me change into a pair of shorts and a loose-fitting shirt before tying my hair up and washing the makeup off of my face. I release my girls by taking my bra off and throwing it across the room.
“Oh, honey, you’re burning up!” my mother says after she shoves a thermometer in my mouth. You’re taking tomorrow off!”
“Mama, I already have tomorrow off,” I mumble as I crawl under my covers. My mother’s loud voice is making my ears ring.
“Good because I was totally prepared to chain your ass to this bed if it meant keeping you here.”
I look back at my mom. Her light gray eyes and light skin makes her something to marvel at with her light blond hair. Both of my brothers look like they fell straight out of my dad’s ass at birth.
I have my dad’s dark brown hair with my mother’s gray eyes. My skin, though, is almost pale and sickly looking. Growing up, I was always teased at how human I looked compared to the other girls in my class.
Talia was the only one to stick by me for all of our school career. She and I are like two peas in a pod.
I would take a bullet for her while she’d take one for me—inn her case, a nondeadly one ever since she found Walker. All the same, nonetheless.
“I’m okay, Mama,” I try to reassure her.
“I’ll come check on you later, Temperance.”
My mother kisses my forehead before turning off my light and closing the door behind her, leaving it slightly cracked open.