I attended dinner that night with Liam and his family, making idle small talk while my mind was elsewhere. The roasted chicken and potatoes on my plate tasted like ash, as most food did this past month.
Frustration bubbled in my gut, making my stomach contract in an effort to keep the food down. The anger I had been feeling towards myself was growing stronger, threatening to consume me. Out of all the people I blamed for my Mom's death, I blamed myself the most. I entered warrior training as an outlet for my anger, as a distraction from what my poor decision had done. Instead of finding a suitable outlet, I'd trudge back to the packhouse coated in bruises.
'We have two options, Raelynn.' Lila snapped, fed up with my downward spiral of bitter self-hatred. 'You can either quit and go back to locking yourself away, or you can try harder.'
'Try harder?' I scoffed, 'I got knocked out because I kept trying.'
'Poor Raelynn.' L
Tournament Day - Beginner LevelAs I sat on the cold metal bench in the large feild directly in the center of town, I swore I was going to hurl.The tournament had been the talk of the town for a week now, and somehow Liam had convinced me to participate. He had taken the time out of his day to train me each night, working me to the brink of exhaustion.The fat on my body had disappeared, leaving behind firm muscle. I had expected my curves to soften from the loss of fat, but the muscle made them more pronounced. My bottom had become rounder, as Nicki and Tyra insisted on reminding me every time we went shopping.Liam continued having me lift weights, but also incorporated sparring into the mix. Liam was a lethal combination of strength, speed, and complete feral determination. His fighting style put Cassie and everyone else to shame. I could see why Liam had been named the best warrior in the pack, but I secretly
Two weeks after Beginner's TournamentThe thrill of my victory during the Beginner's Tournament was short lived, as we all returned to our usual routines. I trained with Liam late at night, sometimes leaving the house to spar with him under the stars. Nicki and Dustin continued pushing me harder during training, leaving me exhausted and bruised by the end of the day.Where I had once been stumbling along, trying to keep up with the rest of the trainee's, I was now managing to stay afloat. My skin toughened, and I began to use the pain as motivation. While I used the physical pain as a distraction, it wasn't a cure-all.My newfound purpose was to take Liam's place as the best warrior in the pack. I knew my goal was a long shot, but it gave me another welcome distraction. Lila continued to warn me about pushing aside the pain of losing my mate and Mom, but I refused to listen. Where I was once drowning in my own emotions, I wa
I pushed myself harder in training the next couple of days, only stopping when exhaustion forced me to the ground. The blistering pain in my muscles was a welcomed distraction, each ripple of pain a constant reminder as I moved into a sitting position. My private training with Liam had become strained. Our feelings for each other were a constant wall between us, bright and blazing, it made itself known with every step, every touch, and every lingering glance. Liam knew I couldn't love him the way his mate would, and yet the feelings were still there. Liam had become a safe space in the midst of the constant storm brewing within me. The churning ocean swallowed all live, determined to suck me into its depths, but Liam kept me from drowning. What awaited me in its icy depths was beyond me. I was playing a fragile game, treading the water on a thin beam, seconds away from falling. Since my victory in the Beginner's Tournament, I often stayed behi
Our kiss was not soul-shattering. It was not a kiss filled to the brim with toe curling, eye rolling passion. My kiss with Liam was one of hopeful promises, one of comfort and security. Our kiss was one of risk, of inevitable heartbreak and broken beauty.The week following the Star Shower Festival was one of the best weeks I had since my Mom died. Mine and Liam's strange relationship wasn't one of sexual tension and angst, it was unique, much like my Mom's relationship with Beta Ned.I had given Liam a piece of my heart, and I knew he would carry it with him always, no matter what paths our lives might take. In return, Liam helped pull my head from the clouds, helped me face the pain I had long come to ignore.He no longer stayed away when I woke in the night, skin slicked with sweat and tears beading in my eyes. He would hold me until the early hours of the morning, whispering sweet words as I processed my latest nightmare.
One Week LaterIntermediate TournamentThe more time I spent with Liam and the rest of our friends, the more normal I felt. The hole in my chest was still present, but the pain seemed to come and go. It would hit at the worst moments, and did not discriminate on whether I was alone or with my friends.Liam was able to tell when my mind had drifted, leaving entirely. Most of the time he was able to pull me back, always giving me that lop-sided smile that I had come to depend on. I knew the hole would never close, but Liam and our friends minimized the pain and the effect it had on me. I no longer hid in Liam's basement, training until my body collapsed into exhaustion. I spent time with them, laughed with them, healed with them.As the Intermediate Tournament grew closer, I found myself more and more excited. When I had first signed up for the Beginners Tournament, I was terrified and unsure. I wasn't the best warrior in
Liam's reaction was instant, his eyes glazing over as he mind-linked the rest of the pack. I couldn't hear his words, as I had yet to complete the ceremony that made me an official member. Liam and I had talked it over many times, putting it off until after my Tournament. It seems we waited just a moment too late.The crowd erupted in panic, parents grabbing children left and right as they raced as far away from the rogues as they could get. Blood already began to stain the grass, and I felt my limbs threaten to lock up in fear.Not this time, I told myself. I forced myself to look at every child, parent, and grand-parent. It wasn't myself I was fighting for, it was them. I had two choices. I could run and seek safety--completely throwing away all of the progress I had made. Or I could fight, I could release the anger I had been feeling for so long--since before my Mom died. The anger that blistered through me the day Atlas rejected me.&nb
"Mate"The word rang out among the crowd of warriors, bouncing from person to person until everyone knew the truth. Their future Alpha had found his mate, had found their Luna. Liam's Dad stiffened, though happiness burned in his eyes.I couldn't blame any of them. Mine and Liam's relationship wasn't well known. The only people who knew were Liam, Kris, Tyra, Nicki and Dustin. Even Liams parents, the Luna and Alpha, had been left in the dark. I preferred it this way, as I couldn't imagine the entire pack giving me the same pitiful looks that Dustin, Kris, Tyra, and Nicki were giving me. That small cowardly part of me wanted to run, leaving everything behind for the second time. I squashed that part of me, snuffing it out before it's voice could even be heard. I wiped my face of all emotion and forced the pain away from my eyes. No one needed to know, needed to see yet another part of my heart chip and break off. I had known this wa
Nicki was one of the lucky ones during the battle. Her car was parked far enough down the block that it hadn't received a single scratch from the fight. Those who parked their cars closer to the park were unfortunate. Some had minor scratches and dents, while others had shattered windshields and missing doors. Nicki let out a long sigh of relief as she spotted her car untouched and without damage."Thank the Goddess." Nicki groaned, patting the hood of her car. "Mom and Dad would have killed me if anything happened to this car."Nicki and Dustin's parents were also trainers, but they often traveled to other packs to offer assistance on training troops. They came home every so often, but even I had only spotted them once since living here. The three of us hopped into Nicki's car and peeled off down the road, the scent of burning bodies fading as we drifted farther and farther from the center of town.Nicki and Dustin lived in a newly devel