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FOUR

LAUREL’s POV

 It's a lie. It's a freaking lie. But I refuse to answer them, I swallow the lump in my throat and forge on.

“You seduced him to get this position, didn't you? Why would Alpha Helios appoint a woman as Beta? This is unheard of,” Lala taunts me.

My fingers ball into a fist. That's it. They've crossed the line.

“Oh puh-lease…she? Seduce Helios? Look at her face! Helios wouldn't be attracted to someone like her! A woman should know how to satisfy her man, instead of hoarding a man’s job. Beta, hah!” Cici exclaims, her voice rising loud enough for everyone around us to hear now.

I take my whip out, crack it in the air and cry out, “ENOUGH!”

The whip slices through the cold night air with a thunderous roar and the twins gasp in both shock and surprise. It never fails as a warning shot. I won’t hurt them but they have to know their boundaries.

One of them, Lala, stares at me with eyes larger than the moon and begins to whimper but her sister, Cici is not backing down. She soon gains her composure, points an accusing finger at me, and sneers, “Don’t you dare pull that stunt again, bitch, or I’ll report you to the Alpha. We’re his darlings now and we’ll have you removed from your position–“

WHIP!

I crack the whip once more and it cuts through the air like a katana. An overhead branch suddenly falls, courtesy of my whip, and drops near Lala’s head. This time, both of them scream. A few nervous chuckles come from the crowd too and a young mother quickly covers her toddler’s eyes and ears.

“Let me set this straight,” I say, my eyes shifting from one twin to the other, “I climbed to the rank of Beta on my own capability and not by parting my legs. But if you think you can get my position just by sleeping with Helios, then, by all means, you can give it a try.”

The girls blink when they hear me say this and quickly look at the muddy ground, shuffling their feet in embarrassment. They have been subdued.

“Anything else you want to say?” I ask them and they reluctantly shake their heads. “Good, then let’s go to the villa.”

With no more theatrics to watch, the crowd that was gathering around us soon begin to disperse. I walk ahead and the twins follow from behind, quietly this time.

As we walk, my mind starts to wander to all the drama that I’ve had to deal with since day one of becoming Beta. Like the twins, everyone in the pack thinks I slept my way up the ladder. Helios tried to stop them from talking, but his attempt at silencing them only added more fuel to the fire and because of that, I have earned the unwanted nickname of ‘Mistress Beta.’

I can deal with the verbal abuse and rumours. I can deal with Helios not loving me back. I can even live with the fact that he beds a different woman almost every night but nothing breaks my heart more than seeing him with Jamie tonight.

The memory of her moaning through the chamber door and the sight of their naked bodies entwined together are forever etched within my mind like poison, slowly killing me from the inside. I am drowning in grief and hurt, but the one person who can save me, Helios, does not even know. He does not even care.

By the time I settle the twins at the new villa, it is already past midnight and I am drained; physically, mentally, and emotionally.

Like a zombie, I trudge back to my family home which is located on the other end of the villa, near the outskirts of the pack. It takes almost an hour just to reach home by foot and when I arrive at my front door, I don’t even care that my stomach is growling from hunger anymore.

All I want to do now is to sleep.

All I want is to kick off my shoes, go to my room and get some peace and quiet --

“Waaaaahhhhhh!”

Oh, Goddess….it is Jamie. I push open the door to my family parlour and see my sister bawling her eyes out at the lounge chair. Both mother and father are desperately soothing her. Mother is gently stroking her silky golden locks, whispering words of love and care while father is handing her Kleenex after Kleenex, all of which Jamie crumples into balls after blowing her nose and throws them onto the carpeted floor.

No one pays me any attention.

They never do.

It has been this way since I was born. Jamie may be my little sister, younger by just a year, but my parents treat her as if she is their only child and me, as the thorn in their flesh.

I remember once when I was six, both Jamie and I were playing by the lake. It was in the evening and a storm was picking up. The gentle breeze that had been caressing our skin just moments ago was soon replaced by strong winds. I looked up at the darkening clouds and quickly tugged at Jamie’s tiny hand, “Jamie! We have to go!”

Jamie wouldn’t budge and she started to cry. She was scared. I was too. But being the big sister, I knew I had to protect her.

“No! I want mommy and daddy!”

“We can’t wait for them, the storm’s heading our way!” I yelled. And it was true. A tornado had formed and was making a beeline toward us. Like a tsunami breaking down a dam, the hot winds began to rage, screaming like madmen in pain. Everything felt its fury; the trees bent to the ground as people scurried to their basement hideouts. No one was safe from the tornado.

Mother and father would not be able to come to save us in time. So I tugged at her arm and yelled through the howling wind, “Jamie, get up now!”

Jamie had frozen in fright. I had no choice but to carry her on my back. I remember desperately trying to run as fast as my tiny feet could carry us. I could not shift back then, I had yet to find my wolf and because of that, I could not outrun the tornado. 

Then the wind hit us and we were both lifted up off the ground, screaming for help. I clung to Jamie’s hand, not letting go. I had to save her!

And just as we were suddenly lifted off the ground, we were thrown into the middle of the lake. Jamie could not swim, and neither could I. All too soon, water began to fill my lungs and blur my vision.

We were both choking and drowning in the swirling lake when suddenly, I saw a log floating nearby. With the last of my ailing strength, I pushed Jamie towards it and helped her up onto the log.

By then the tornado had crossed our path and headed elsewhere for more mayhem and destruction. But there was a problem, the log could only carry one person.

“Jamie!” I called out but she was too petrified to even look at me. She clung onto the log like a little puppy as I flailed my arms and kicked my legs, trying to stay afloat. Imagine my relief when I saw mother’s figure running towards us from a distance.

Rescue was on the way!

I saw mother jump into the lake to pull out little Jamie who was crying uncontrollably by then. I reached out a hand, expecting my mother to pull me to safety too.

Only, she didn’t.

Our eyes locked for the briefest moment before I started to sink beneath the water and I remember calling out to her in my heart, ‘Mother, why have you forsaken me?”

I would have died that day but the Moon Goddess had other plans. I would awake the next day, weak and sick from pneumonia only to find out that someone else had saved me. It was not mother; for mother had left me to drown.

She had left me to die.

Back in the present, I try to be as quiet as I can and sneak past the parlour but father’s sensitive hearing caught my movement and he whips his head around to look at me, his eyes full of disdain. My heart starts to beat faster.

“Father…I-“ I start to explain only to be cut off by his roar. Mother gets up from the lounge chair and storms over to where I stand.

“What have you done to Jamie?!” she screams at me even though my ears are perfectly fine.

I shake my head, “Nothing. I was just doing my duty –“

SLAP!

A stinging blow lands on my cheek and I detect a faint taste of iron in my mouth. Mother had slapped me across the face, hard. So much so that my mouth is bleeding.

I palm my cheek and bite my lip. This is not the first time that she has hit me. So why does my heart still hurt every time her hand connects with my face?

“Why did you bully Jamie?” father demands. He doesn’t seem to notice that his eldest daughter is nursing a swollen face.

“You’re her sister! You should have helped Jamie gain Helios’ love! That’s all she wanted, why can’t you even do that for her? You’re useless!” Mother spits at me.

I close my eyes and suck in a breath, trying to keep my emotions intact. All I ever wanted was to be loved by my family. Am I not their flesh and blood too? Why are they only siding with Jamie? Can’t they see that I was just carrying out my duties?

Sharp pain at the base of my hair snaps me back to reality. Mother has yanked my head and is screaming profanities into my ear. I usually do not fight back; I usually keep silent as I become her punching bag and let her vent out her frustrations on me.

But tonight had been a particularly rough night and I cannot take it anymore. Tears well up in my eyes and I push her hands away, questioning both mother and father, “What did I do wrong? I was just doing my job.”

My voice cracks and for a moment, both mother and father become silent. Even Jamie has stopped her sobbing in the background.

I wipe the tears with the back of my hand and ask some more, “Am I not your daughter too? Why do you hate me so much?”

The silence lasts only for a fraction of a second. Jamie rises from her seat and shakes her head, sneering at me, “Doing your job? Embarrassing me in front of Helios is more like it!”

Mother jumps and seconds Jamie,” You don’t deserve the position of Beta. You’re nothing but a worthless scum.”

I turn to my father, and with a trembling breath, I hope that he will speak up for me. But he doesn’t.

He shakes his head in disappointment. “Laurel, if you truly love Jamie, then you should help her to win the Alpha’s heart. Help Jamie carry his seed and give birth to his heir. But you’re ruining everything, don’t you know that once Jamie becomes Luna, you will benefit greatly from it too? Your position as Beta will be even more secured! Right now, you’re only weighing us all down! You’re a deadweight, Laurel.”

At this, Jamie’s face contorts into a sickening smile. Father’s words send my world crashing down. My family, who is supposed to love me and protect me does not love me. I am nothing but a burden to them.

I cannot take this anymore. I turn around and run out of the house.

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