Loyal to the Pack
- Genre: Werewolf
- Age: 18+
- Status: Completed
- Language: English
- Author: Mia E Rivers
The chilly wind sneaks under my hair, sending a cold shiver down my spine. I quickly pull up the fur-lined hood of my jacket. Where is this cold coming from? We have only a handful of chilly days during winter, as the weather rarely goes below zero.
“Please, please," she pleads, her tiny lips pouting.
"Ok, Abby, one last slide," I consent, unable to say no to that cute little face, especially with her eyes shining like her mum’s.
"Thanks, Aunt Sarah. You're the best." The end of her hair flips as she turns like a windstorm and sprints off. We came to this playground when I picked her up from preschool, and I’m surprised that it’s not empty due to the cold weather.
I watch as she tells another girl excitedly that she can stay for one more slide and climbs the ladder. This time she follows through with our deal, and we leave right after she touches down.
"You know, we promised your Mommy that we'll buy those running shoes today, and it’s getting dark," I explain to her again as we leave hand-in-hand.
"I know. The race is this weekend, right?" she asks excitedly, jiggling beside me. The streets are crowded with people hurrying home before sunset, and I have to hold her hand firmly to keep her close.
"Yes, it is." I smile down at her as I pull the hoodie over her hat.
I love winter. Not this kind of winter, though. Everything I love about it is missing in the city: the snow, the mountains with snow-covered forests and frozen lakes. The only downside of living in the Capital is the lack of nature.
Most people dream of living on the shores and swimming in the ocean. Not me. I long for the deep forests of mountains, the wild, unspoiled nature. However, I’m not nostalgic about things connected to these images and places. The childhood I spent wandering through those snowy forests is something I don't talk about. Something I don't think about.
Except when I do.
I let out a small sigh, chasing away the memories and looking back at Abby again. She is the six-year-old daughter of my sister, Eleanor. They are my only family, and even they are adopted.
I moved to Eleanor's family when I was fourteen and she was sixteen. We've become inseparable almost instantly and have loved each other fiercely as sisters since then. We rent apartments near each other, and I pick up Abby from preschool two times a week. Babysitting is my favorite thing to do. It's not precisely babysitting when I spend time with the two people I love the most.
I peel off her jacket in the store and point her toward the kids running shoes.
She tries on pair after pair, and while she parades in front of the mirror and runs up and down only to test them out - her words -I find a pair for me.
"Are you going to have a competition, like me?" she asks.
"Oh no, but you know I work out a lot. Plus, I can use them when I teach Krav Maga" I don't actually need new gym shoes, but I'll need them eventually, right?
"Thank you, Aunt Sarah," she says, hugging me. "Mommy told me I should thank you whenever you buy me something." Her complete honesty is just too innocent.
"You're very welcome. Nothing can stop you now from running as fast as you can.” I smile, hugging her tightly.
We buy pizza on the way to their apartment and settle in the kitchen.
"Why do you think Mommy likes mushrooms on her pizza? They are so sluggish and just eeew," she asks, and I can't suppress a burst of laughter.
"I don't know," I reply, controlling my face, trying to figure out what her mum would say. “I’m not a big fan of them, but they are good for your belly.”
“I guess so,” she shrugs her shoulder, but later I see how she steals some from her mum’s and puts them on hers. Feeling pleased that maybe I had taught her something, we continue our night routine and play card games after her bath. Eleanor arrives home just in time to read her a bedtime story.
I wait in the kitchen and reheat some pizza for her, searching online for new candle fragrances. I’m obsessed with scents and candles and use them at home, work, and even in the gym. I know it annoys everyone, but I still collect and gift them. They can clear unwanted smells quickly but delicately and don’t overflow my senses.
"Thanks for today again," Eleanor slumps down on a chair, exhausted. She works as an accountant for a big company, and they seem to always be behind schedule. She must work on some Saturdays to catch up. They need more people at that company.
"Of course. We had a great day. She made me laugh with her questions so many times," I smile, thinking of her cuteness.
“I know,” Len says with motherly love twinkling in her eyes. “She has very valid but also hilarious questions.”
“She’s growing up so fast,” I sigh. “Do you remember when she was asking ‘Why’ all day?"
“Uhh, that was an exhausting summer,” she laughs at the memory.
Their apartment is smaller than the one I rent with two friends. I don't enjoy living alone, I suggested to Eleanor that we could live together, but she wanted their own space with Abby. She has never said it, but I think she hoped Abby's father would return to their life. He moved out when their baby girl was only one; we hadn't seen him since. So, I rented the closest apartment I could find to be here whenever they needed me.
Len was always the romantic one of us. Dreaming of the perfect guy and happily ever after. How Abby’s father left them broke her so much that she’s still shielding herself from other heartbreak. I couldn’t hate that prick more. She doesn’t date or even think about love anymore. On the other hand, I jumped into relationship after relationship till I realized I was not good at it. Being a girlfriend is too much work, and trusting someone that much to put yourself out for them is something I’m bad at. So, as casual dating is more of my thing now, I enjoy life's beautiful creatures as they come.
After high school, Len studied to be an accountant and stayed in our town, where she still lived with her parents and me. I spent most of my time in boarding school, but on any given vacation, that was my home, and she was there. Her parents had some agreement with the high school I studied at to take in kids without a home. They are lovely people, and I had a nice few years while I lived with them.
When I met Len, she had already planned her future. She had laid out her plans to start as an accountant as soon as possible after a shorter course, work herself up the ladder, and study in college simultaneously. She knew that there was no way she could afford college another way. I was amazed at her determination about her future because I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life.
Len helped me - more like persuaded and guided me - by laying out a plan for my high school years, focusing on finding out what I'm good at and how I could benefit from it and build a future around it. I followed her instructions and found my passion in giving presentations and coaching others fairly early on. I was lucky to have Len as an older sister helping me through high school. With our debate team winning competitions, I was fortunate to win a college scholarship covering the tuition fees for my HR studies.
An internship at a law firm gave me enough money to pay for the remaining expenses. I loved working there and was grateful they offered me a permanent position upon graduation. As much as Len had planned her entire future, her pregnancy at 24 upended it. She is back on track, with or without her shitbag of an ex, but getting her college degree took longer than she planned.
I smooth out my skirt and look into the mirror to finalize my appearance, just like every morning. The tight knee-length skirt hugs my curves perfectly up to my waist.
I smirk, knowing how my boss Nina will frown when she sees me. She is as skinny as someone can get and explained several times how a curvy woman like me shouldn’t wear tight clothes. Yet here I am, in a pencil skirt and skinny fitted blouse. I like showing off my curves. They are curvy but toned from the exercise and workout I’ve been doing my whole life. I love food and don’t have a problem with how the food fills my bra and pants. I must work extra hard to keep my slender waist and flat belly. I’m not aiming to be size eight, though.
Not to mention that I show no skin whatsoever. My green blouse reaches my elbow and has a high neck because I can never forget to cover the tattoo on my neck. My dark brown hair is straightened to perfection, and my usual natural makeup and heavy eyelashes are enough for a workday. Yet something is missing.
“Jenny,” I knock on my best friend's room. We had a rocky start in high school as we were so different, but we became friends after clearing a few misunderstandings. Living with a very self-assured girl like Jenny throughout high school and college helped me with my issues. I spent years imbibing her confidence, building mine with it.
“Damn, girl, you look fine,” she says as I walk in. I’ll always feel like I can pull anything off with her by my side.
“Do you have earrings that would look great with this outfit? I feel it is too green, I don’t want to add more color, but it needs something.”
We go through her boxes of earrings, and I’m not even exaggerating. She has a shopping problem that she calls a future investment. I’m not judging, especially when I’m borrowing her stuff. I finish my look with gold earrings shaped like a sun and head to work. The green Mary Jean shoes I plan to wear at work travel in my bag because I’m not willing to tiptoe through the streets on a cold winter day like this.
I am the head instructor at work, and I’m pretty proud because I worked hard to get there in the last four years. I’ve been presenting and teaching the new filing system to our employees in groups rotating them weekly. When they start using it alone and bombard me with questions, the crazy part starts. It has been an intense few weeks, but I love it. As usual, I start my day by replying to those emails, then picking up my laptop to go to one of our conference rooms.
“I’m joining in on your presentation today.” My boss catches up to me when I reach the elevator.
“Sure,” I reply calmly.
Pretending that I’m calm when I’m freaking out inside is something I practiced to perfection. She hasn’t done this in a long while. Has someone complained about me? Does she feel like I’m doing poorly? Those are the questions I’m not asking out loud, and as we step into the elevator, I glance at the mirror to ensure my game face is on.
“This week’s group hopefully will be easy. They are all first-year associates and aren’t used to the previous system.” I keep up the conversation.
“Yes, I know. I want to see how they act and work,” aah, so that’s why she is here.
“Sounds great,” I keep in a sigh, not to give myself away. Everyone is already in the room when we arrive. Some are having a silent conversation; others are getting ready for the class like they are in school. I hope this week goes smoothly. I sit down and open my computer to start the presentation when my nose tickles, and before I can stop it, I sneeze, then sneeze again.
“Can I help you, sir?” I hear my boss and wonder whom she is talking to, especially when there’s no answer.
“Sarah?” she calls for me.
“Yes?” I look at her with my brightest fake smile. I haven’t even started the presentation, but something is going off.
She points to the door, and I follow her directions, turning in my seat, only to find someone I’ve never expected to see again, the one and only Nate Blackwood. My stomach churns, and my face falls instantly. “Shit,” I hear my lips murmur, and I realize I’ve lost all the fake pleasant attitude I’ve been keeping on.
I feel everyone’s gaze on me. And I mean everyone, my boss, the Head of the Interns, and the new colleagues. Not to mention this brooding werewolf in front of me, with his eyes blazing at me. I hadn’t seen him in ten years, but I’d recognized the dream boy of my childhood anywhere, anytime.
I suck in a ragged breath as our eyes lock. My blouse stutters over my chest from the force my heart is crashing against my ribcage.
I look back at my computer to steal a moment.
Shit. Shit. Shit.
With a slow deep breath, I focus on steadying myself. Straightening my posture. Clearing my face from emotions. Tuning out the room full of whispering colleagues before I stand up to approach him.
I have to avert my eyes while I walk to keep my knees from crumbling just by his gaze.
“Hi,” I greet him, briefly glancing behind him through the opened door. My eyes land on two familiar faces in the corridor. Gabriel and Lissa? Maybe, I’m not sure; it has been a while.
Panic consumes me, not understanding what they might want from me. Why now? Why here? Couldn’t they show up at my apartment? Do they expect me to leave with them willingly?
My initial shock and panic turned to anger at that thought. They kicked me out. They have no right to show up at my work and demand anything.