Plain Jane
Plain Jane
Author: Celice Wylder

Chapter 1

For as long as I could remember, everyone called me Plain Jane. It wasn’t my name, but I had long since forgotten my real name.

This was supposed to be my third, and last, reaping. If no one picked me this time around, I’d either be sent away to live the life of a rogue, or I’d be killed. The final decision lay with Alpha George.

In rare cases, if Alpha George thought the rejected girls would be of any use, he’d employ them in the kitchens or as a trainer for the younger girls. Sometimes, he took the prettier girls as his breeders, but most of the time he killed them. And in not such a nice way.

He wasn’t a good guy, our Alpha, and he enjoyed a bit of torture. Or so I’ve been told. I didn’t actually know if there was any truth to the rumours, because we weren’t allowed to leave the red palace until we were picked or kicked out, and we had no contact with any men until the day of the reaping.

“Good morning ladies,” our dorm mistress chirped and banged the door to our room open. “Big day. Get up. Get up.”

The room exploded with chatter and laughter. Most of these girls wouldn’t be alive this time next year, but it was almost as if they pretended the danger didn’t exist. They couldn’t wait for the buyers’ arrival, and couldn’t wait to see who bought them. All of them thought they’d be the exception. They’d be some Alpha’s rare, one true mate, or the breeder that finally broke the cycle of death and survived childbirth.

I had long since given up on such fanciful notions. I knew my fate. It was death or death. If we were picked, we’d live a life of misery as some male wolf’s breeder. We’d die in the process of giving birth, there was just no way around that, and the next year the wolf would be back here to pick another girl for death. I’ve seen the same wolves come and go for many years now.

The only ones that had any chance of survival were the most beautiful girls. The richest wolves, usually Alphas and Betas, used them as their trophies, showing them off to other high-ranking wolves. They cost a lot of money and they were nothing more than a status symbol…but at least they got to live.

I wasn’t one of the pretty girls. I was Plain Jane. I was so unremarkable that even the Gammas and handful of Omegas that managed to scrape enough money together to buy a cheaper girl, passed me by.

For me, there was no upside to being a Lunar virgin. My odds of surviving this day were low. There was no way Alpha George would use me as a bed slave or a breeder. I wasn’t strong or beautiful enough, and I was a hopeless housekeeper. Mistress Katrina told me so repeatedly.

Sighing, I waited until the last of the tittering girls left before I rolled out of my bunk and wiped my mousy hair out of my face. “Plain Jane,” Mistress Katrina said. “Last chance today.”

“Yes, mistress,” I mumbled.

The only good thing about being a Lunar virgin was that we weren’t abused. At least not physically. The buyers wanted an unmarked virgin in pristine condition.

It was better than what the orphan boys had to endure, and miles better than the abuse the unwanted girls in the adjoining orphanage had to endure. Those wretched creatures had no chance at all. Unwanted and forgotten, they were used as slaves until they died. Usually before they saw their eighteenth birthdays.

The girls that were eligible for this year’s reaping jostled around in the bathroom, trying to get to the warm water first. I didn’t even try. I did the first time, when I had a little bit of hope, but on that particular occasion, one of the most beautiful girls pushed me out of the way and into a wall. Two weeks later, my back still hurt where she slammed me against the tiles. “Do you think you stand a chance?” she snarled in my face. “You’ll die in the Alpha’s torture chamber, Plain Jane.”

Her name was Katja, and her purchase price was astronomical. I was happy to see her go. She was often cruel just for the sake of it, and everyone except for her clique of stars hated her guts. As far as I knew, she was still alive, living a life of luxury as her Alpha’s trophy.

She-wolves born into packs were luckier than we were. Their mates loved them and took such good care of them that it was difficult to believe those same wolves could be so cruel and callous with the she-wolves that bore their children. Maybe it was easier for them to treat us with such cruelty. Easier to deal with the fact that they caused an innocent girl’s death.

They never bred their mates. Breeding was our job. Well, for some of us. It clearly wasn’t in the cards for me.

No one knew exactly when or why it started, but at some point in our history, childbirth started killing she-wolves. Pregnancy was a one-hundred-percent fatal condition. No matter what they tried, the she-wolves died. That’s when our Lycan overlords came up with their brilliant solution of Lunar virgins. Orphaned girls, children of rogues and outcasts, would be used to bear children for them, instead of their treasured mates.

I was born of a breeder, I’m sure of it because I can vaguely remember a woman I called Mommy. I can’t remember what happened to her though. My memories of my life before coming to the red palace were vague.

I sat on the bench in the steamy washroom, trying my best to ignore the excitement, and inhaling the cacophony of scents. Apricot and lavender and rose and Goddess knew what else. Each girl had her own soaps and perfumes. It was the only time Mistress Katrina would spend any extra money on us; after all, we were worth our weight in gold, and anything to make that sale. The expense of a nice smelling soap or bit of perfume was worth it.

I had none this year. I was no longer worth the investment. It was just as well. Last year, the shampoo made my head itch and gave me a terrible rash. “Jane?” Gloria, my only friend, asked. “Are you okay?”

“Yes, I suppose so.”

“Why aren’t you washing?”

“I’ll wait until everyone else is done.”

This was Gloria’s first year. She turned seventeen a few days ago, just in time for this year’s reaping. Today was my twentieth birthday. It’s hard to believe I made it this far. For all intents and purposes, I should have been dead already. “Don’t you have soap or anything special?”

“Not this year.”

“Here,” Gloria whispered and leaned in closer. She pushed a little green bottle into my hand. “You can use the last of my shampoo. Happy birthday.”

I gave her a sad smile. Gloria was excited. She had no idea what was waiting for her. Or maybe, like the rest, she did and just decided to ignore reality. She was pretty, and I was sure someone would pick her, but that only meant she’d be dead a few months from now.

I stared at the bottle in my hand. What was the point? Who was I trying to impress? I had no redeeming qualities that I was aware of, and this year, like the two years prior, the buyers wouldn’t even look at me twice. Mistress Katrina knew it as well as I did, which is why she didn’t ask me if I wanted anything special for this year’s reaping.

After everyone else had left, I peeled the plain, white nightgown over my head and dumped it in the clothesbasket with the rest of the girls’ clothes. The nightgowns were made from cheap material. The were way too thin and itched all the time, no matter how much softener we used. Most girls lay in bed at night, scratching their skins to ribbons because of the nightgowns. At least I’d never have to wear the damned thing ever again.

Taking my little bottle of shampoo into the cubicle with me, I stood under the lukewarm spray. It would have been nice if there were some warm water left. I’d have liked one last, hot shower.

I wrapped a threadbare towel around myself and rushed back to the room I shared with five other girls. They were already partially dressed in their pretty, new outfits. The dress waiting for me was a simple, white slip with thin straps that fell to just above my knees.

Gloria was already dressed in a purple, skin-tight dress that reached just below her knees. The outfit showed off her spectacular body, and full, womanly curves. Her auburn hair tumbled in perfect, shiny curls down to her waist, and her emerald eyes sparkled with excitement. There was a good chance that she’d be a trophy. Not ideal, but better than the alternative.

For such a beautiful girl, Gloria was humble and sweet, unlike some of the others that treated me with the utmost contempt. “Here,” she said and gave me her roll-on. “It’s all I have. Sorry.”

Well, at least I wouldn’t smell like onion soup. “Thank you, Gloria,” I said and hugged her. “I suppose we’ll never see each other again after today.”

“Don’t say that. You never know. I might not get picked.”

“You will, but even if you’re not…I won’t get picked, and I’ll be taken to the Alpha tonight.”

“He might decide to keep you here.”

“No, he won’t,” one of the girls said. “I overheard Mistress Katrina earlier. You’re headed for the torture chamber. Well, whatever, we’re all good for something right?” The girl cackles. “Some more than others.”

“I don’t know why you’re so smug about it,” I said in a moment of uncharacteristic boldness. “In a few months, you’ll be dead too. I heard it hurts…giving birth. It lasts for days and days while the baby claws its way out of your body.” I had no idea if that were true or not, but I wanted to get that little sting in, just once, before I died.

“Don’t pay attention to her,” Gloria said. “They’re all a bunch of bitches. Like we’re not in the same boat rowing up the same river of shit. Come, I’ll help you to get dressed and do your hair up a little.”

Everything the maids laid out for me today was simple. The bra and panty were as simple and white as the dress and the matching sandals. I wondered if Mistress Katrina was going for a virginal look in a last-ditch effort to appeal to a wolf who liked that kind of thing, or if she had just given up hope completely.

Gloria did up the straps of my dress and sat me in front of the unoccupied dresser. She combed my pin-straight, mousy hair until it sparkled and tied it up in a prim bum with a white ribbon. It completed the innocent look, but all the white made me look washed out and even paler than usual.

Well, we can’t have everything. I did look a little more presentable at least. “Girls,” Mistress Katrina snapped from the doorway. “Today is not the day to be late. The buyers are gathering. It’s time for the viewing.”

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