I looked at the girl before me and was completely and utterly captured by her.
Her eyes were like an overcast sky. They shined and sparkled, and by the way they widened slightly, I knew she had been captured by me as well.
I felt as though the world had suddenly stopped turning. We were suspended in space, just me and her, tied together through the stars.
I felt my wolf howling in joy as he hungrily ravished our mate with his eyes, wanting me to go and wrap my arms around her.
And then Leah locked her lips on mine and the spell was broken. I kept my eyes open as Leah kissed me, unable to process what had just happened.
I had just turned eighteen today. I thought I would have a few years to meet my mate, not a few hours.
“Mate,” she whispered. Leah removed her face from mine and spun around to stare at the girl, as did everyone else.
I wiped my face free from emotion and looked at her as if bored.
But on the inside, I was praying she would just leave, praying that she hadn’t kicked a stone my way and had continued to her classes and me to mine, our paths never crossing.
Jay, my beta, was the first to break the awkward silence. His laugh boomed throughout the courtyard. “What did you say?”
The girl instantly blushed. “I-I—”
One of my boys laughed. “I think she said, ‘mate.’”
A pang of anger wracked through my body. My wolf hated that I was letting them mock her.
I hated myself for not intervening, but more than that was the sinking feeling of commitment and the fear that came along with it.
The girl looked over at me pleadingly, expectantly, as if she was waiting for me to make everything okay.
But I couldn’t. I hushed my wolf and made myself look up and down her body.
She was wearing baggy clothes, so there wasn’t really much to see. She had her dark hair tucked up into a ponytail that was hidden by an old, scabby-looking baseball hat.
The only thing that was pleasant about her appearance was her face. It was angelic, innocent, soft.
“Yeah right, like anything like that would be my mate, too plain, too boring, and too…unattractive.”
As soon as the words were out, I heard my wolf growling and snapping at me; something I’d never encountered before. I was stunned into silence.
I watched as her heart broke in front of me. Her eyes filled with tears sending my wolf howling.
“What are you talking about, Cole? I’m your mate! I’m the future luna!”
My wolf was begging me to smooth things over while I could. We were in disagreement for the first time in my life.
Jay looked like he was about to pass out. It was no secret that he valued his reputation more than anything. And right now, his little sister was ruining it.
“Liv, shut up. Stop spewing this crap and move on already,” he growled. I felt my instincts to protect her kick in but fought it.
She glared at her older brother, her eyes turning stormy. “I’m not lying, Jay! I swear!”
One of my pack members laughed. “You heard Cole, he said you’re not his mate so let it go while you have some dignity left!”
Livy turned and stared at me; she was pleading with me, I could tell. She wanted me to say something, and I was almost positive she was second-guessing herself.
I stared right back, feigning boredom. I didn’t want a mate. I couldn’t have a mate. And I didn’t want Olivia Holden.
So, I did the only thing to keep her away. I broke her heart.
“Please, although I find this mildly flattering it’s also getting annoying. So just go along with your little friend and leave me alone.”
My wolf was raging inside of me, to the point where it was almost painful.
“Stop being pathetic, Olivia! Get lost! You heard what he said. Now stop being delirious and go!” Jay shouted at her.
He was desperate to regain his cool status, and it was clear his sister was embarrassing him. I pitied him as much as I disliked him at that moment.
I took a deep breath and said, “Like your brother said, get lost. I’m not interested and never will be—I have a mate out there, but she is not you.” My wolf was going crazy, and I didn’t blame him.
I stepped toward her, having to fight off the urge to claim her; make it known that she was mine and no one else’s.
I swallowed a growl. I didn’t want this. I didn’t want her; she wasn’t what I had imagined or expected. I wasn’t ready. I would never be a good mate; I wasn’t that kind of guy.
I reached up and plucked the hat from her head—my wolf wanted me to stroke her cheek instead. She watched me with those cool gray eyes, not reacting to what I was doing at all.
Without removing my gaze from her, I chucked her hat into the puddle a few feet from my right.
I watched as her eyes filled up with tears as she looked from her sopping hat to me. She sniffled and pursed her lips, trying to keep it together.
I was fighting an internal war between fear and instinct and morality.
She nodded slightly and walked over to the puddle, her hands clenched into fists. She bent down and plucked her hat from the puddle before shaking it slightly and holding it to her chest.
She turned and looked at me and I took that as my opportunity to show her how I really felt—or thought I did.
I walked over to Leah and grabbed her waist before dragging her to me. I kissed her cheek, then her nose, and finally, her red lips. Leah responded instantly, just as I knew she would.
I heard my wolf whimpering. He was the one to handle most of the pain that I felt. He was taking in everything I was repressing.
I forced myself to kiss Leah and act like I enjoyed it because—I didn’t know why. I didn’t know why I was doing any of this. And the fact that I didn’t know my own mind scared me.
I sensed my mate staring and resisted the urge to cringe. Finally, I heard her footsteps and released Leah. I had to sell it.
I watched lazily as she walked past me with her head down. Her dark hair had tumbled down her shoulders now that her hat was removed and reached the middle of her back.
She dragged her feet over to another male shifter in my pack I didn’t know the name of.
He watched her with sad eyes and opened his arms for her to throw herself into. My wolf was growling again as we watched her be comforted by another male.
He kissed her forehead and I felt my chest tighten. She said a few words into his chest that were muffled and I bit down on the inside of my cheek to keep from walking over there.
He whispered something in her ear and took her hand before tugging her away. Before they disappeared into his car, he looked over his shoulder and glared at me.
If looks could kill, I would have been long gone.
Once they were out of sight, I was able to relax, but my wolf couldn’t. He was restless and I could feel him start to pull away from me—disgusted by my actions.
“Hey, Cole, I’m really sorry, man. My sister is a bit—well, actually, she never acts like that. I don’t know what got into her.” Jay rubbed his neck as he spoke, seemingly anxious for my forgiveness.
I shrugged. “Whatever, man. It’s not like it’s the first time some girl has claimed to be my mate. Happens all the time; don’t sweat it. They’re all just attention whores, wanting power.”
The words were bitter in my mouth. No one would expect different rhetoric from me though. It was the language expected of a young, arrogant alpha.
I saw Jay’s jaw tense as if he wanted to punch me in the face. I almost wanted him to.
“As I said, Livy isn’t usually like that. I’ll talk to her when we get back to the pack house.”
I nodded and dismissed him, no longer interested in his groveling. Every word he said made the pain of this situation sting a little more.
The bell rang and I kissed Leah on the cheek before heading to class. Her perfume, which I had found appealing before, now only stung my senses.
I sat in the back of class, slouched low in my seat with a pen twirling between my fingers as Mr. Gates droned on.
I couldn’t help but think of how strange it was that I had never noticed Livy before. How strange that fate had paired us together for life but only brought her to my attention now.
Our pack was large but it was hard for me not to even know her name, especially since her brother was my beta. Maybe she truly didn’t like attention.
The thought unsettled me as I couldn’t help but realize how painful this morning had to have been and how excited to be my mate she must’ve been to chance the spotlight.
I told myself that I did the right thing by rejecting her. Being the luna meant a lot of attention and scrutiny.
I thought about why I rejected her, the one I was supposedly destined for. Not surprisingly, I couldn’t locate a concrete reason.
Being future alpha meant I was treated like a god. I wasn’t hiding some big secret. I just didn’t want a mate. I didn’t want that lifestyle.
I didn’t want to disappoint someone for life and as much as my wolf didn’t like it.
I didn’t want Livy.
When I had imagined my mate, I had thought I would get someone more like Leah. A conventional beauty who was confident with her body enough to display it.
Not some tomboy who didn’t take care of herself.
My wolf was growling at me but I didn’t care. It was done. I didn’t have a mate. I was just a jerk, and that was how I liked it. I wanted to be alone. I couldn’t see myself any other way.
The whole day, I had half of my mind on Livy and half of what was going on around me.
If it had been up to me, I would have spent the day thinking about Leah’s assets but my wolf kept bringing up Livy and shoving her into the spotlight of my mind.
After school, I was leaning against my car with my arms crossed over my chest, enjoying how everyone bowed their head slightly when they passed me. This whole alpha thing was already sweet.
“Alpha?” I looked up to see Jay, looking worried.
“Yeah?” I asked nonchalantly, a small thrill running through me at the sound of my new title.
He cleared his throat. “Have you seen my sister around? I thought maybe…” he trailed off looking around the courtyard.
I shook my head. “Sorry, nope. I haven’t seen her since this morning.”
Jay scrunched his eyebrows together. “Neither have I, that’s what worries me.”
I shrugged. “She’s probably hiding out in her room or something. Embarrassment is a strong feeling.”
Jay nodded. “Yeah, maybe. Thanks anyways, Cole.”
I nodded and he left for his car before jumping in it.
As soon as he was out of sight, I ran to the other side of my car before jumping into the driver’s seat and speeding off toward the pack house.
It was a short drive that my body was able to navigate on autopilot as my mind was consumed with the image of a baseball cap in a puddle. I growled as guilt settled over me.
I threw my car into park, not bothering to check if I was straight, before I walked into the house and inhaled. There were too many scents to catch hers.
I walked upstairs cautiously, feeling dread build in my stomach. Something wasn’t right.
“Liv! Open the door!” I heard Jay yell.
I stayed behind the wall and listened to what was happening. He banged on the door a few more times and then I heard a new, lighter set of footfalls enter come out from a room.
“Jay? Sweetheart? What are you doing?” I recognized the voice as Jay’s mother, Sally.
Jay sighed. “Liv won’t open her door.”
Sally lowered her voice. “She came home in the morning very distraught. She said she was rejected by her mate.”
I felt my face pale and my palms start to sweat. My wolf was growling, urging me to apologize, to grovel, to beg for forgiveness.
Jay sighed. “Is she still on about that? She tried to claim that Alpha Emerson was her mate.”
“When does she ever lie? She never wants attention. Has it occurred to you she may be telling the truth?” Sally asked. My breath caught in my throat.
Jay scoffed. “She’s just being stupid, Mom. She’s probably just confused.”
“It’s hard to mistake the meeting of your mate. You don’t know what it is like, Jay.
“Anyway, I tried to talk to her but I could tell she wasn’t listening. She was just staring out of her window. She might be sleeping. You should just leave her.”
Jay groaned. “Why does everything have to be so difficult?”
Sally chuckled. “Come on, I’ve got some work for you to do for me.”
The two of them left and I waited until it was safe before sneaking over to Livy’s door.
I didn’t know what I was thinking; it was as though there was a war going on inside of me. I didn’t want Livy but my wolf kept pulling me toward her. He was worried by her disappearance.
I tapped lightly on her door and pressed my ear to the wood.
But I heard nothing. Absolutely nothing.
Being an alpha meant I had slightly better senses than my fellow pack members, and I couldn’t hear anything inside of the room. A cold shiver ran through me—what if something was wrong?
I shook my head and pinched my arm, trying to snap myself out of it.
I had to decide what I wanted. I couldn’t keep playing this game where I was conflicted. I was either for or against having a mate.
I turned away from her door mechanically and forced myself to head outside for a run. I ran and let my wolf take over, hoping this would maybe shut him up. No such luck.
When I got back, the house was in chaos. I could hear crying and swearing and crashing of objects and felt my new alpha instincts kick in.
I ran upstairs to see Sally sobbing on the ground. I felt my whole body go cold.
I walked slowly to Livy’s room, expecting the absolute worst as my body was plunged into a deep cold. I expected to see her lying still on her bed having tried to commit suicide.
Fear ran through me as I entered the room with caution. I had heard of wolves killing themselves after rejection.
I walked into her room to see Jay throwing all sorts of things around, sending lamps and such into the walls.
“Jay? What’s going on?”
Jay turned around and ran a hand through his dark hair before swearing and looking up at me. His eyes were red-rimmed and it was obvious he had been crying.
“She’s gone.” His voice cracked a little and I felt myself relax slightly. Gone was better than dead.
“Where did she go?” I asked, struggling to control my tone.
Jay picked up a small hand-painted wolf statue and threw it at the wall, creating a shower of glass shards. “I don’t know! She just left a note saying goodbye.”
I felt my wolf start to grow angry. “Why don’t we just track her scent?”
Jay spun and glared. “I’ve already tried that, you dipshit. She went to the water! The trail ends there.”
I growled, my wolf not liking that I was being disrespected. I forced myself to ignore it, reminding my more feral side that he was in shock and grieving.
“Calm down, Jay, I’m sure we can find her.”
Jay looked over at his mother who was crying. Sally had lost her mate three years ago in a rogue incident. It wasn’t hard to tell that she wasn’t taking the loss of another family member well.
“Tell me right now. Is she your mate?” Jay asked, his eyes boring into mine.
I felt the heat of his anger rolling off of him in waves and instantly puffed out my chest, feeling my authority being threatened.
Jay shook his head slowly before lunging forward and punching me in the jaw.
I spit on the ground and glared, not retaliating due to his situation. My hands curled into fists regardless, testosterone and adrenaline increasing until I was almost dizzy.
“You fucking bastard, look what you’ve done.”
I rubbed my face. “I wasn’t the only one who rejected her. It’s not like you didn’t betray her by not trusting her!”
Jay paled and then was angry again. “At least I didn’t fucking reject her as a mate! You’re lucky she didn’t kill herself. You’re lucky she’s just run away.
“But mark my words, you bastard, if she ever comes back, you will never be with her.”
I glared back at my beta. “You can try to pin this all on me, but you know you’re at fault here too. I don’t want your sister, simple as that. She’s not my mate and never will be.
“I’m glad she’s gone; makes it easier for me. Now, I suggest you don’t try to undermine my authority, Jay. I’m the alpha here and what I say goes.
“I order you not to tell anyone about your sister being my mate.”
Jay was seething. I could feel the tension rolling off of him.
“I wouldn’t want people to know her mate was a scumbag like you, Emerson. You have my word that no one will know.
“I will be leading a search for her with or without you, but either way, I’m going to find my little sister.” Jay brushed past me, knocking my shoulder on the way.
I let it slide, knowing that I was the reason he was so angry. I sat down on Livy’s bed and put my head in my hands.
I realized something disturbing then. Silence. My wolf wasn’t making any sound; he had disconnected himself from me.
I swore and looked out of the open window, feeling the war of emotions rage on. She was gone and it was my fault.
I didn’t know whether I was happy or not. I didn’t know whether or not I wanted her to come back.
All I knew was that she had left me totally and completely fucked up.
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