It was my birthday.
Well, it was going to be my birthday in exactly ten minutes.
How did I know this? I put a timer on it.
One wonders why I was going through the effort of timing the exact moment I turned eighteen.
It was because I was turning eighteen. That magical birthday when wolves found their mates and everything finally slid into place in their world.
I lit the last candle and looked down on the beautiful game Darryl from the kitchens where I often cleaned had gifted me with.
It was small but it was probably the nicest thing anyone had done for an orphan like me in this big pack.
"I can't take this."
"You will," She'd harrumphed. "I know you don't like showy stuff but it's your birthday. You should have a cake at least."
I smiled at the memory of her unwillingness to let me feel alone even for a second.
The timer was already counting down and I felt butterflies in my belly at the thought of finally meeting my mate.
I was about to sit down when the door of my room suddenly barged open.
I jumped, my pulse racing from both the abruptness of the opening of the door and at the sight of my biggest tormentor.
"Well, well isn't this cute?" Lyra drawled, her voice warm and friendly making my skin crawl as she invaded my personal space.
Lyra was the daughter of my Pack's Beta. She was everything I wasn't. Tall, blond, lithe, effortlessly powerful and beautiful.
She delighted in torturing people beneath her station and I couldn't count how many beatings I had gotten because of her.
She was also drunk judging from the strong smell of booze that followed her as she stepped in.
I backed away instinctively. Without alcohol, she was very unpredictable. I couldn't telll what she would do to me now.
I shouldn't have worried because Lyra only had eyes for my cake.
She covered her mouth with an exaggerated gasp. "Little Astrid made a cute little cake for her birthday."
My cheeks burned and I hugged myself avoiding her gaze so she would take my words as a challenge.
Before I could blink she slapped me tightly across my face making my ears ring.
"Who do you think you are talking to, runt?"
Hot tears ran down my cheeks as I bowed my head to her. I could not stand against her.
She was stronger than me as the Beta's daughter. Even now I could feel her dominance push against me.
"I'm sorry, Lyra."
My apology wasn't enough because the next thing I knew, she had shoved me to the ground.
"How dare you think to talk back at me?!" Lyra growled from above me.
I didn't dare move before Lyra hit me as she always did.
Suddenly I felt a charge in the air of the room and a low growl that sent shivers up my spine.
I didn't look up but I would know that voice anywhere.
It was Xavier. The heir to my pack, the Moonshadow pack, my childhood friend and my crush for as far back as I could remember.
Someone touched my shoulder making me tremble. I saw Xavier's bigger, more muscular hand cover mine as he pulled me up to my feet.
Xavier was stunning. His hair was a dark coffee brown, his eyes a shade lighter but just as intoxicating, his body so beautifully built.
Those brown eyes were wide in concern as he looked at me. "Are you alright?"
My voice couldn't function properly. Was I dreaming?
Xavier's concerned look disappeared beneath a wicked smile that made my heart drop. "Do you think I actually care about how you feel?"
I was cut off by Xavier grabbing me at either side of my face yanking roughly towards him as he snarled at me.
"How dare an omega like you not know your place? You will call me by my rightful station."
I let my eyes fall from him along with my tears.
Ever since my thirteenth birthday had come and gone with no sign of my wolf, Xavier's behaviour towards me had changed.
Instead of protecting me, he had joined the wolf cubs continually tormenting me.
What had I expected? For him to treat me differently today of all days?
"I'm sorry, Alpha Heir."
Lyra's gaze sharpened as she caught onto his arm pulling him away from me and latching on to him as though I wanted to take him from her.
"She's so pathetic, babe." Lyra said snidely.
Xavier's gaze on me was as degrading as ever.
"You are right. She is utterly disgusting."
He looked back at Lyra, his gaze softening as he kissed her on her forehead making her smile.
My heart twinged slightly. I should have looked away but I couldn't. Xavier seemed to sense my gaze on him because he looked up at me, his anger returning.
"I don't know what Dad was thinking, letting her live here with us."
The fact that I wasn't a real member of this pack was the origin of all my problems. No one knew my roots. Just that I was brought here.
After my thirteenth birthday without a wolf to secure my official ranking, the pack members became more hostile to me.
I looked at Xavier and for the first time in a long while, I found the courage to stand up to him.
"Xavier, we were friends once, how can you be so heartless?"
Xavier glared at me. "Remembering we were once friends makes me feel so disgusted."
His words hurt me far more than I thought they would considering the fact that he had not hidden his disgust with my powerlessness all this while.
He didn't seem to notice the hurt on my face as his sneer broadened on seeing my cake.
"It's your birthday?"
Lyra giggled, her arm firmly linked with Xavier's.
"Look, she even put a little timer. She can't wait to meet her very own pathetic mate who will be a weak wolf-less omega like she is."
My cheeks flushed for the second time that night.
Wolves are usually matched according to strength. I would probably be linked with an omega like myself. I didn't mind. But the way Lyra said it made it sound like a bad thing.
Xavier's eyebrows went up with a sight-mocking edge to his voice.
"Is that true? You can't wait to meet your mate?"
I looked at the floor twisting my fingers together hoping that both of them would just leave me alone.
Xavier must have read the truth on my face because his next statement was as cutting as it was honest.
"Well, don't get your hopes up, Astrid. No one. Not even a hopeless omega will want you to be their mate."
His words made me want to cry. To bawl my eyes out and cry but I couldn't do that yet. Xavier and Lyra were waiting for the slightest provocation to laugh at me.
My silence seemed to displease Lyra who pushed my cake to the floor. The candles went out and it scattered in a creamy smear across the floor.
A soft gasp escaped me and this time I couldn't stop the flood of tears that escaped me.
It was a small thing. Just a cake but they couldn't even let me have this one thing.
Lyra smirked at me viciously before smiling up at Xavier. "There is no need for a cake if there is no celebration. Right, babe?"
But Xavier's eyes never left my face. He seemed to be enjoying the sight of me in pain. In tears.
"She should eat it off the ground. Like the trash that she is." He mocked.
Lyra laughed pettily. "At this point, Xavier, I can't wait to see her mate." Her blue eyes sparked with dark amusement. "Maybe we can go on double dates together where they wait on us. It'll be so much fun."
Xavier laughed as though she had said something very funny before dropping a small kiss on her mouth that was barely a step away from a full-blown make-out session.
They acted like I wasn't there. Like I didn't matter. To them, I probably didn't. I was no one. Nothing. Just a wolfless omega to toy with.
My timer went off with a loud sound that startled them apart from their kiss and my world stopped.
My world doesn't stop exactly. It was full of color and scents.
An intoxicating scent in particular that had me taking a step forward in search of the origin of that delicious scent.
Xavier took a step towards me and put gazes locked.
"Mate." The words escaped me in a shocked gasp.
How could Xavier be my mate? How could I feel so drawn to my tormentor?
Lyra paled looking between the both of us, a curse escaping her. "What the hell."
Her words seemed to draw Xavier out of the trance he had been in since the timer went off and his face hardened as he took a deliberate step away from me.
"You can never be my mate. You are nobody."
My heart broke but that was only the beginning, my mate wasn't done tormenting me just yet.
"I, Xavier Blackwood, future heir of the Moonshadow Pack, reject you Astrid Nightshade as my mate."