I wished for the pain to stop, but it never did.
So I took the coward’s way out and left my home and my pack. There was no way I could live in the same house with the female who shattered every dream and fantasy I built around Tyler and me. I had to leave while there was still some sanity left in me.
My name is Catherine Galhart, a second-born Alpha Female from the Galhart clan. My brother, Jackson, is the Alpha of the Black Shadow Pack.
And his Beta — Tyler Salvatore — was my first heartache.
Almost a year ago, I left our pack and traveled to another continent to forget the man who broke my heart.
It was not an easy journey, but I slowly learned to accept that he was not meant for me and that there was someone out there whom the Goddess deemed worthy of my love. One day, when I’m ready to fall in love again, I will meet him.
I waved at the man who held a placard with my name, and he immediately came to help me with my luggage. I just landed at Harley Airport after traveling for almost a year. As much as I was enjoying my freedom, it was time to meet my new sister-in-law, who happened to be my best friend, Amara.
I guess with the heartbreak that happened in my life, my best friend and brother thought I would be too sensitive to hear about them being mated to each other. I was not happy with my fate, but that didn’t mean I couldn’t be happy for them.
But then, I harbored no hard feelings. The retreat I joined taught me about life and acceptance. Everything happens for a reason — the good and the bad. And the difference lies in how we react to it. I refused to let it take me down.
So here I was, surprising my whole family that I was already back in the country. Mom thought I would be arriving in two weeks. Well, I decided I would rather go home and spend time with my newborn nephew than go on another vacation with some of the shifters I met during the retreat.
I decided on the spur of the moment that the only flight I could get would make me reach home by midnight. However, it didn’t matter because I made sure the taxi company I booked with was reputable and run by a shifter who knew Jace and Dad. So if anything happened to me, they would face their wrath.
But in all honesty, I knew I could take care of myself. Even before I left, I had been attending training on weekends, but I always pretended to be weaker than my friends, so I had a reason to make Tyler prioritize looking after me.
But I didn’t have to pretend anymore that I was weak. I needed to stand up for myself. Besides, the morning training and the manual chores we had to do while on retreat helped me with my clumsiness. I was still not perfect or as strong as Amara, but I was sure I could hold my ground.
Plus, I found a new sport that I love: shooting daggers. So stand in my way, and I’ll make sure to hit you in between your eyes.
I chuckled at my own thought. Of course, that was a lie. I was still not good at it, but a girl could dream.
Aside from meeting my nephew, I had to fix my university application in Bernice City, four hours away from our territory. I hadn’t told my parents about it, but I guess at eighteen, I would be free to decide the path I wanted to take. And I wanted to move out and live with my grandparents near the university of my choice.
It was the only way I could fully move on and restart my life without Tyler.
I slid inside the taxi, and as soon as he began driving, I closed my eyes and thought of what Mom told me when I got to speak with her for a few minutes.
Tyler and Zoey separated, and the pup that she carried was not Tyler’s. Mom said he was devastated about the pup, but he was doing his best to move forward.
I had no idea what to feel at the moment. I used to want Tyler for myself, but I didn’t wish for him to have his heart broken.
And maybe this was the main reason I went home earlier than planned — because I wanted to know if I still loved him the same way I did before I left.
I had been taught to honor the mate bond all my life, and that was exactly what I did. I spent my whole life telling myself that I was not allowed to fall in love with anyone because there was someone meant for me.
And then I finally met Zoey, my fated mate. Within minutes of meeting her, I placed my mark on her skin. I thought I was doing the right thing. I thought there was no way I would not end up falling in love with my fated mate.
It was too late when I realized that after the high of scenting her had calmed down, there was another side where love needed to grow.
It didn’t happen between me and her.
It had been three weeks since my fated or ex-fated mate and I finally rejected each other.
She left with Garrett, the son that I thought was mine. Although I had been waiting for almost a year for Zoey and me to finally break our bond, I was not prepared to lose Garrett.
All along, I thought he was mine, and up until this moment, I was still having a hard time coming to terms with it. But life needed to move on, although everyone I wanted in my life was gone. I was now left with nothing.
Before I met Zoey, my eyes and heart were enamored by just one female — Catherine—my Alpha’s sister. But I didn’t entertain any thoughts of her, although deep in my heart, I prayed that she would end up as my mate. But the Goddess had a different plan.
"You’re drinking again. Does it help?" Gamma Austin’s voice snapped me from my thoughts. My head tilted in the direction of the voice, and I found him leaning on the door frame of my office at the training building.
I’ve been spending more time here lately, bringing all the paperwork I needed to avoid seeing Colton, the Alpha and Luna’s son. Seeing him would always end up reminding me of Garrett.
"You tell me. Do you think I didn’t know you’d been drinking yourself every night?"
"My life is a mess. I fucked up. I have every reason to drown myself in alcohol, which we both know doesn’t help. It only makes me think more of everything I should have done right from the beginning."
"Tell Lexi I was excited to father the pup she was carrying instead of saying I was not ready."
"But if that’s not how you feel at that time, how would you end up saying that?"
"I don’t know, man, like I said. I messed up. And I’m just waiting for the suspension to take effect."
"What do you plan to do for the next six months?"
"Try to come closer to them."
"You can only do that if she hasn’t filed a restraining order against you for that bullshit you made."
"I know. That’s why I’m just waiting until she gives me a go signal." He let out a sigh before he continued. "I’m going back to the packhouse. I have an early day tomorrow as I will transition my duties to Marshall."
"It’s just six months, Austin."
"I know. And I know I deserve more. I need those six months to think about where I want my life to go. I just want to take them home."
"She’s not your fated mate."
"I don’t know. I think I will be okay with Lexi."
"If she will let you."
"Exactly, if she will let me. A man’s got to try."
"If you’re doing it for David, I suggest you stop. Think about it. There is nothing worse than getting stuck in a relationship where you don’t feel anything about your partner."
He didn’t answer and just gave me a nod before he walked out of the office with slumped shoulders while I refilled my glass with whiskey.
I closed my eyes, and Catherine’s image flashed in my head. Ever since Zoey and I rejected each other, I finally let myself think of Catherine often. I didn’t have to feel guilty anymore.
A smile tugged at my mouth as I rested my hands on the top of my head and leaned back in my chair before raising my feet on my desk. I missed my little tyke.
She’d be home in two weeks. It had been far too long since the last time I saw her, and even though I messed up when I called her while I was too drunk, I held on to the hope that she had forgiven me, as she had all the other times I had disappointed her.
I spent another two hours in my office before finally calling it a night. I was sure that by this time, the Alpha and his family were already in their suite. Not that I didn’t want to see them, but nighttime was harder, so I would rather not see them before I go to bed.
I took one full swig of the whiskey before turning off the lights and locking my office door. The whole training area was deserted except for a few warriors who were patrolling this area. I acknowledged their greeting as I walked straight ahead to the packhouse.
My head was buzzing, and I just wanted to sleep, but for some reason, my wolf, Black, became restless in my head. ‘Calm down, boy. We’re home soon, and you can sleep.’ I chuckled as I turned the corner that would lead me home.
I saw Meynard’s car pulling out of the driveway, and it made my forehead crease. He was manning the border tonight, so what was he doing here? Then I decided to shrug it off. The Alpha probably asked him something. And before I could contemplate more, my nose smelled her.
CATHERINE. "Catherine?" His voice reached my ears, and the loud thumping of my heart became louder. It had been too long since I heard his voice, but I had memorized it so well that I would still know it was him, even in my sleep. I slowly turned around from the top of the steps and locked my eyes with the man who gave me my first heartache. "Hi!" It was the only thing that came out of my throat. "You came back early." A broad smile was on his lips, which made the dimples on the sides of his cheeks appear. The same smile that would always make my knees weak "Yeah…" "I thought you were coming home in two weeks." He began walking up, and the moment he landed on the top step, I moved backward, which stopped him from moving forward. I saw pain cross his eyes, but I ignored it. "I want to surprise Amara." "I see." He opened his arms and smiled widely again. "Welcome home, little tyke." Little tyke. Little rascal. He would call me that when we were younger, as I always ended up get
SIX MONTHS LATER. TYLER. I puffed the cigarette in my hand as I stared at the darkness in front of me. I was standing outside Jason and Jessica’s home in Bernice City. Alpha Jace and Luna Amara, together with their son Colton wanted to visit their grandparents and Catherine. Catherine had been living here since she got back from traveling abroad. She was moving on with her life while I was still stuck in the same place I’d been — still lost and trying to find meaning for my existence. She rarely visited the territory, and I knew it had something to do with me. I had no idea which was hurting me the most: losing the chance to love her or losing the friendship we had nurtured since childhood. A car stopped in front of the gate of their home, and Catherine climbed out, giggling, before waving to her friends. I glanced at the clock on my wrist. It was already past six in the evening. Does the university end classes around this time? "Tyler?" Her voice came out soft and sweet. I m
TYLER."I always do, Tyler. But you’re not returning the favor." She said the last part in a low voice before she slid out of her chair and turned around, ready to walk away.I felt every word she said, and it hurt. Because all the while, I thought everything I did was to protect her heart. How would I know I would still end up hurting her?My hand coiled on her wrist as I pulled her back gently. "Where are you going?" "I want to dance." She pulled her arm away from me gently."Alone?""I've been dancing alone for a while now. I’m used to it.""Then dance with me." I wanted to pull her closer, but like before, I didn’t want to take advantage."I’m not sure if I can beat the last dance partner you had." She said before biting her bottom lip.How do I tell her I never had any dance partners at all? Zoey and I never attended balls together, except once held in her territory for Lawrence's birthday gala, but we didn’t dance together. We simply showed up."I never had one except the littl
*FLASHBACK.Catherine - 8 years oldTyler, Jace, Austin - 10 years old CATHERINE. I wore a light purple t-shirt that I tucked inside my white shorts. I had already slipped on my running shoes, and my hair was pulled up into a ponytail to make sure it wouldn’t go to my face. I was all geared up for play. I just needed to wait. I sat at the end of my bed, hands clasped together, watching the clock intently. When the big hand pointed to the number 9, I jumped up and ran out of my bedroom. It was fifteen minutes before four in the afternoon. I heard Jace telling Tyler and Austin they would go to the clearing inside the forest at this time. I ran down the stairs and out of the front door. I was right. They were already walking away with the other boys around their age. I stopped at the top of the steps and counted how many there were. One, two, three, …. seven, eight, nine. Yes! There were only nine! They would need one more! I skipped the stairs and ran fast to follow them, b
CATHERINE. “Why are you smiling?” Tyler asked and it snapped me away from the memory playing in my head. We were driving toward the restaurant of my choice so we could eat something as we were both hungry. I smiled at him as I contemplated telling him my thoughts. Because before that, I was thinking of the words I told him — that I was the only one protecting his heart and that he never did it for me. But then, so many memories of our childhood came flooding back, where Tyler had never let me down. Jace had always been a good brother, but Tyler was more protective when it came to me. It was why Mom would always ask him to watch me as well, in case Jace might not. Because between the three of them — Tyler, Austin, and Jace — Tyler was the most responsible one. “You’re not sharing, and yet you keep smiling. It makes me curious.” He said, a broad smile on his lips, and I wished I hadn’t glanced in his direction because he looked too sexy from this angle. Oh, damn this. He looked
TYLER. “I missed you...” I whispered, hoping she would say those words back, but there was just silence, and it hurt. “Please, let me make it up to you. Let’s start over again.” Catherine sighed deeply before pulling away from my arms, but she didn’t move too far. Our faces were so close that her breath was fanning against my skin. “I’m not sure I understand what you are expecting when you say start over again.” She said “Pick up where we left off before you went to Australia.” “I’m not the same person anymore, Tyler. If you think I’m still the same girl who’s head over heels for you….” “I never meant that way.” But that truth hurts. It was a confirmation that I was not the center of her universe anymore. “Can we go back to being friends, and will you allow me to pursue you this time?” She was just looking at me, and I was having a hard time reading her thoughts. Was that a no? “I can wait too. If you don’t want me pushing myself on you, I can wait. But I mean, can we still be
CATHERINE.The late dinner with Tyler was awesome. In fact, the whole night with him was perfect. He had always been great company, but tonight was special. Whether there were people around us or just us in the car, he would look at me as if I were the only one he was seeing. His eyes would always search for mine, and his hands would always brush the stray hair away from my face like he didn’t want even a single strand to block his view of me. Tyler had always been attentive to me, but not this focused that I couldn’t help but revel in it.After dinner, we walked around the city, just checking out the crowd and the places that were still open. I showed him the direction that would lead to my university, and although he wanted me to take him there tonight, I told him I could do it some other day. And I thought that made him happy. “So that means I get to take you out again so we can go around the city and the places around here. Right?” He asked. We were already on our way back to w
TYLER. I was lying in bed, looking up at the ceiling, still thinking about how the night turned out perfectly. Before I met Zoey, Catherine and I would spend most of our time together whenever I was not overloaded with work. She would even sometimes hole up in the office with me, doing her schoolwork while I finished my task. And yes, she would flirt with me, but I had learned to mask my emotions from her and simply ignore her at times. But tonight, it was refreshing to let my guard down around her. I always liked when she flirted with me way back then. Even though she wasn’t doing it at this point, she was starting to loosen up, and seeing her cheeks turn scarlet red when I complimented her warmed my heart. “Oh, fuck!” I grunted as I got up from bed. I grabbed my shirt, pulled it on my head, and put on sweatpants before leaving the bedroom. I headed for her room, and after three soft knocks, she opened it. I almost choked when I saw her in her satin short pajamas with her nipples