Two weeks after Beginner's Tournament
The 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
Dustin and Kris stayed in the den with us, though neither of them had anything more to drink. After another hour, my eyelids began to grow heavy. Dustin offered to bring me back to the packhouse, as it was nearly one in the morning. Figuring it would be late enough to avoid prying eyes, I let Dustin drive me.The world pitched and rolled as I hopped out of the car. I pressed my hand against the cold paint, hoping to steady myself before I fell flat on my back. My legs felt disconnected from my body, moving with a mind of their own. Dustin ran around the front of the car, his hand grasping at my elbow to steady me."Thanks." I said, though it came out in a half-tired, half-drunken mumble."No more drinking with my sister." Dustin chuckled, his laugh thick and rich. "You can't handle it.""I can to handle it." I snorted, placing most of my weight against Dustin as we hobbled to the front door.Dustin wrapped
As it turns out, there wasn't much to be briefed on as Liam pretty much covered the basics. The Northern Star pack takes up most of Washington state, and suffered an attack a few weeks ago by a nameless beast. Nicki had little detail on the beast itself, but told me at least ten lives were lost in the fight. Liam had sent two warriors into the pack to aid with training, but their Alpha had requested a few more for defensive purposes.I rested my head against the cool window of the Ford Explorer Dustin was driving and fought against the remaining thud of my earlier headache. Nicki sat in the back seat, a pair of headphones on as she bounced around to some song I couldn't hear. If I closed my eyes long enough, I could pretend we weren't wedged in between two identical Ford Explorer's, and that this mission made some sense.I still couldn't fathom why Liam would send me of all people. He had been raised in this pack, surely, he could have sent Kris