** This story takes place between The Vampire's Servant and The Witch's Temptation. **
I tapped my foot waiting for the walk sign at the crosswalk. I wanted to get home fast, so, of course, every light was taking its damned time. As soon as the walk light came on I bolted into the street.
A car stopped short of hitting me. They weren’t paying attention, obviously. I flipped them off and kept running. I needed to get home. My little brother would have already been picked up, but I relished my time walking home from the rogue school every day. It gave me time to think.
After a few more lights that seemed to take forever, I could finally see the house in the distance. It was large and looked almost like a mansion. There were over a dozen bedrooms and plenty of room for pups to run safely in the yard.
This wasn’t a normal home. I didn’t have parents waiting for me. This was one of the orphanages of the Eaten Heart Collective.
I punched my code into the code box by the small gate and opened it up. There was a lot of security. Queen Bellamy believed in protecting pups. It was something I definitely agreed with her on. My little sister and brothers were finally safe.
Two years ago, our pack was attacked by hunters. We weren’t a big pack and they wiped us out. When the call went out that we were under attack, mom and dad hid us in a panic room in the cellar before they went out to try and defend the pack.
That was the last time I saw them. There was always a plan, because of how weak our pack was. As soon as I turned twelve, mom and dad trained me in the plan. They taught me how to drive. They gave me very specific instructions.
I was responsible for my sister and brothers. It was a lot for a fourteen-year-old to suddenly become a mother of three. We stayed in the hidden room for two or three days. We had enough food and water for that.
Dad always said we needed to wait that long to make sure the hunters were really gone. They would go searching for money and valuables after they’d destroyed the pack. I left the kids behind while I went to look around.
It was horrible. There were corpses all up and down our street. Hunters never cared about cleaning up their messes. In front of houses were children who had been pulled out and executed. I wept uncontrollably when I saw the body of my best friend in the yard next to our house.
Quickly, I started gathering clothes, diapers, formula, and food, then loading them into the car that was still safely tucked away in our garage. I pulled the bodies from our driveway so I could get out of there safely. Then, I went back down stairs.
Bobby, the oldest of my little siblings looked scared. He’d just turned eight, but he was a very mature kid. I shook my head at him and he turned away, but I could tell he was crying.
We worked to get the littles put together for the trip. Adelaide and Aaron were only one-year-old when we lost our parents. I made sure to pack a few family pictures before we ran. I wanted to make sure they knew we were loved.
When it got dark, Bobby and I loaded up Addy and Aaron into their car seats. I made them some warm bottles and wrapped them in blankets, hoping they would sleep while I drove. I adjusted the driver’s seat and headed out, up north.
There was some money in the go bag mom and dad had in the panic room. I used it for cheap foods. Luckily, none of us had our wolves, or we would have needed a lot more food than I was able to afford.
On the trip north, we would stop from time to time and find a park to play in. We slept in rest stops and bathed in sinks. It took a couple days to make it to Oregon.
We were headed for the Eaten Heart. Mom and Dad said that Queen Bellamy had a soft spot for pups because she was orphaned young and she might be able to get us adopted by pack wolves if we went to her.
There was no family to take us in. No other pack would want children with nothing to their names. It didn’t matter that we had to leave everything we knew behind in Texas. There was nothing for us there, anymore.
When we arrived, I looked in mom’s planner. It had all of the information needed. I thanked the moon goddess once again for giving me parents who researched and planned everything.
At a gas station on the outskirts of the town, I found a payphone and called the number in the planner. It connected me to someone who identified herself as Katie, the ex-pack wolf lieutenant for the city. I told her our information and everything that had happened.
She told me to stay where I was and she’d come get us with her mate. It took less than an hour for them to show up. She was beautiful, tall and model-like. “Are you Kaysie?” She asked as I pushed off of the side of the car.
“I am.” I told her.
There was a man next to her. He was built like a swimmer. Broad shoulders, narrow waist, trim muscles. His smile was kind.
“This is my mate, Henry. He’s going to drive your car. We’re taking you to our house until we can arrange something with the orphanage. You’re safe now. You don’t have to be strong anymore. You did an amazing job, Kaysie.” Katie smiled.
I don’t know why, but that broke me. After I’d seen my best friend dead, I’d managed to control my emotions. I needed to, for the kids.
Katie wrapped me up in her arms while I cried. I cried for my parents, my best friend and her little sister, my sister and brother who would grow up never knowing mom and dad. I cried for the happy life I’d lost and everything I’d lost with it.
We were taken to the orphanage the next day so we could settle in. The mistress of the orphanage, Miss Tye, said that they liked to wait at least six months before putting new children up for adoption, so we had a chance to regulate a little.
No one wanted to take on a family with four children. There had been a lot of offers for the twins. I just couldn’t break up our family like that.
According to werewolf law, I was the head of our family. The twins could only be adopted out if I agreed to it. If nothing else, I would take care of the kids once I was old enough to get a job in the collective. I could apply for housing once I was eighteen.
Today was special, though. There was a couple coming to meet us. They knew that we were a package deal and were still coming to meet us.
I rushed into the house and up to my room. Quickly, I hopped into the shower and slipped on the nicest blouse and jeans I owned. I brushed my hair out and applied a little makeup before heading out to the playroom.
Miss Tye said she would make sure Bobby and the twins were dressed nicely. I saw Addy and Aaron playing with some blocks and chattering in their little twin speak. Bobby was working on his homework.
He’d skipped a couple grades in school and was in the gifted program. Bobby always told me that he wanted to do his best so he could help take care of everyone. I was very proud of him. At ten, he was far more responsible than most adults I knew.
I sat at the table with him and looked over his shoulder at his homework. He chuckled and moved the books closer to me. We talked about what he was working on. It wasn’t terribly challenging for him, but he never said that. He was a modest boy.
The door to the playroom opened up as we wrapped up the last of his homework. I looked over and saw a couple. The woman had blonde hair and blue eyes, just like my mom did. Her mate was tall and broad. I could tell he was a warrior from the way he watched the room.
I stood and crossed the room. Miss Tye smiled at me and led them closer.
“This is Kaysie. She’s the oldest of the children.” She said.
“How old are you, Kaysie?” The woman asked, looking me up and down.
“Sixteen, ma’am.” I replied.
“You’ll get your wolf soon. What are your plans for after you turn eighteen?” The man asked.
“I’d been planning to get a job in the collective so I could take care of my sister and brothers, but, if I don’t have to worry about them, I’d like to go to school and work on a degree in medicine.” I admitted.
“That’s ambitious.” The woman smiled.
“Please come and meet my sister and brothers.” I replied and led them over to the table.
Bobby had rounded up the littles and they were sitting at the table with him, trying to figure out what was going on. I smiled at them and pointed to my smile. They picked up on the hint and smiled back.
I went around the table and the couple introduced themselves as Mr. and Mrs. Hart. I tried not to let my eagerness for them to like us take over the whole conversation.
They asked Bobby and the twins questions. They answered the questions Bobby and I had. I really liked their answers. He was a warrior for the pack and she took care of their home. They had a small house, but were trading homes with his parents who had raised all of their pups to adulthood and found themselves with too much house and not enough people.
Both of them seemed impressed by Bobby’s intelligence. Mrs. Hart smiled at Addy’s stories and Mr. Hart nodded at Aaron’s distracted play fighting. He probably saw a little warrior in him.
When the meeting was over, they left with Miss Tye. I told Bobby to take the twins up and change them back into what they’d been wearing earlier. I didn’t want them to rip their nice clothes.
Slipping away as he took them upstairs, I went to stand outside the office door. I leaned against the wall and prayed to the goddess that they wanted us. The door opened and Miss Tye waved me in.
I sat on the third chair as she closed the door and slipped around her desk to her seat. The Harts were holding each other’s hands and smiling tightly. My stomach dropped. I knew that look too well.
“You don’t want all of us.” I sighed.
“It’s nothing against you, Kaysie. You seem to be a wonderful young woman, but you’re so much older. We would only have you for two years before we were expected to pay for your schooling. We’re not in a position to do that.” Mrs. Hart said.
“It’s me you don’t want. Right.” I shook my head. “Thank you for coming to see us. I hope you have good luck finding children you want.”
“Wait just a minute. Don’t you think it’s selfish to want to keep your sister and brothers from having a family just because we can’t take you too? They can’t grow up here, and raising three pups on your own just isn’t feasible.” Mr. Hart insisted.
“They’re all I have left. You may not understand and I don’t expect you to. We’re family. I won’t be cut from their lives just because you don’t want me. I never said I expected you to pay for my schooling. I planned to apply for scholarships and grants. I wanted to know I was still welcome to see my sister and brothers when I was on breaks. I wanted a place to be my home, too. I would know they were safe while I was away. I can take care of my family. I kept them alive when my pack was wiped out. When my parents were murdered by hunters. I brought them here, where they would be safe. I will keep my family together.” I replied.
“You’re not strong enough to take care of them. Let us have them. We’ll make sure your little siblings are cared for. We’ll get your brother into a good pack school. You can come visit them. Daylight Moon keeps its borders open to rogues in the collective. We can set up days you can spend with them on the pack lands. Soon, your brother is going to be too old for someone to want. Are you really going to make them suffer?” Mr. Hart growled.
“They won’t suffer. They’ll have everything I can give them. Like my parents, I’m a planner. I already know what I need to do to take care of them. Thank you for coming. I have homework to do.” I said coldly and stood to leave.
“You belong in the collective. You’re selfish and cruel.” Mrs. Hart sniffled.
“I’m not the one who would refuse a child a home because they weren’t fully dependent on me.” I answered back and left the office.
I went to my room and pulled out my homework. I wouldn’t cry. I’d just work harder. I’d keep my family.