Finding myself with my face buried in mud was, sadly, not an uncommon occurrence. I tried to stand up, but a foot on my back shoved me back down. It was hard to breathe, and as soon as I managed to move enough to take a breath, I was pushed down once again, until they got bored and instead kicked me in the stomach, which at least allowed me to get air into my lungs. I could feel the mud all over my face, clothes and hair, and it was pissing me off.
"Who do you think you are to walk before us without showing respect?" asked Fiona, one of the Alpha's daughters, a brat. I glared at her, angry that she was so entitled that she was once again finding an excuse to pick on me, not that they really needed one.
"How dare you look at us, you filthy mutt?" said her half-sister Fern, just as bad as her sister, and with more to prove, which made her even more willing to pick on me, the daughter of the former alpha.
I tried to stand up again, not sure why I bothered, only to be kicked again, in the back of my knees, making me fall in the mud, again.
"You're going to get dirt in your boots if you keep that up," said a new voice I couldn’t place. I turned to the voice and saw a tall, muscled up guy with dark hair and tan skin, looking bored and not interested on what was going on. At first, I didn’t recognize him, and that was understandable since he had been away for a while, but the bored expression and haughty manners clued me on who he was.
His name was Frank, even if everyone knew him as Fang, he was the Alpha's son and heir. Unlike all his half-siblings, he was the son of the Alpha's True Mate, while the rest were from the collection of women he collected as a harem after his True Mate's death. As the heir of the Pack, he had been away, visiting other packs, looking for his own True Mate, something he needed to ensure his claim to the pack and the continuity of his line. I had no idea he was back, and I wondered for a moment if he had finally found her, and then decided it didn't matter, I wouldn’t be there long enough for that to affect me.
"Someone has to teach her respect," this time it was Fred who talked, he was the one who liked to kick me, often saying he didn’t want to get his hands dirty with me, but not caring about his boots. "She is a nobody, she should stay away from us," his voice moved closer, and I dared a look at him, only to receive a kick to the face that left my head ringing. "She should know better by now, an omega like her, should move away and let us pass, she should avoid our eyes, she should show us. Some. f*****g. Respect!” he said, each word emphasized with a kick.
"Agree," Fang said, "I only think it's a waste of time and energy to be the ones teaching that lesson, it's clear she is too stupid to grasp it."
A round of laughter greeted his words, as well as another round of kicking, I wasn't sure who was involved, but I could feel more brats had joined Fred. No matter how I wished I could get up and fight back, I couldn't, so I endured the abuse until they left. When I got up I noticed some other members of the Pack had been watching. Some of them were laughing at me, others were looking at me with regret, but none of them really tried to help, not that I blamed them, it was just the way things were, no one dared to fight the Alpha's brats, especially not for me, the daughter of the previous Alpha, an outcast.
I got up and decided to go and visit Paul, I needed to blow off some steam, plus mom still had a few more hours of work. Both my mom and I were always assigned the worst jobs, grunt work that no one else wanted. I had just finished an eight hour shift and was bone tired, but I was so angry.
It had been that way most of my life, I was always fighting the brats, but it was a pointless battle, I would always lose, since I couldn’t hurt them. Even the insults I threw at them once in a while hurt me, because it went against the Alpha’s orders, it didn’t hurt as much as trying to hit them, that would carry a pain way worse that anything I could inflict on them.
“I wasn’t expecting to see you here today,” a voice called from the forest. It took me a moment to pinpoint Paul, he was very good at blending in and hiding in plain sight.
“I need to free some energy,” I explained.
“Another run into the brats?” he asked, stepping out to where I could see him. “You are a mess, and I guess that under all that mud I will find some bruises?”
“Yeah, they didn’t like that I was walking on the sidewalk, so they pushed me to the street. I’m so tired of them.”
“Don’t worry, a few more days and you will be able to leave the Pack.”
Paul was my father’s Beta. After my father lost his position, he refused to follow the new Alpha, but remained with the Pack, mostly to help me and my mom. There was not much he could do to help mom, but he was a great help for me. He was the one who had trained me to fight, not that I could use that knowledge against the brats, not yet anyway. He was the one I ran with in my wolf form, since mom was forbidden to run with the Pack and I didn’t want to be there without her.
“I need to get some energy out, I need some sparring,” I said.
“I don’t think that’s a good idea, you are hurt and angry, you are not thinking clearly. Let’s run, go to the river and clean up a little, then, once I can see the damage, we will talk about sparring."
"Okay," I agreed, knowing there was no point in trying to change his mind, and also, I really wanted to clean up, I was a mess, and I the mud was drying fast, making it even worse. I knew that changing into my wolf would make the run easier, but if I wanted to clean up, it would be better to do it with my clothes on, once I was clean, I would be able to change easier.
Running, in any way, always helped me clear my mind. Mostly because while running I couldn't be distracted, not at the speed I was going. I had to check around me for predators of any kind, I had to see where I was putting my feet, I needed to see the branches and roots to make sure I wouldn't hit or stumble with one of those. I also had to focus on myself, my body and its place in the world. Not to mention I had to make sure not to hurt me even more, the brat's attack had left me more injured that I wanted to acknowledge. By the time we got to the river I was feeling better, and tired. I went right into the cold water and washed the mud from my clothes, skin and hair. I even took my clothes off to wash them better, and left them on a rock to dry.
"That's a nasty bruise, you could have internal bleeding," Paul said. "Did they gang up on you again?"
"Yeah, it seems that the heir is back, so most of the brats were together."
"Fang is back? Did he finally find his mate?"
"No idea, he was alone, plus I don't care."
"You should shift a couple of times, that should take care of most of your injuries. Then, we will see just how tired you are before deciding if we should be doing something else. It doesn't look good," he frowned, looking at me.
It didn't bother me that he was looking at my naked body, as shifters we were mostly comfortable in our skin, most wolves shifted from human to wolf at least once a day, and that involved certain levels of nudity, since we had to take our clothes off before shifting. The only one that we didn't like being naked around, was the Alpha, Hunter. He was always leering at the females, looking for his next conquest. We were lucky that the rules forbid him from taking mated females, so most were safe, it was the unmated females that were at risk. Just another reason for me to get far away as soon as I turned eighteen.
I shifted into my wolf, a process that was slower because of my wounds. Shifting involved changing our bodies; muscles were torn, bones reformed, organs moved around. On the upside, changing usually took care of most wounds, for the rebuild closed cuts and fixed broken bones and bruised organs. It didn't help with illnesses, but we could bounce back from accidents fairly easily. The downside? It took a lot of energy, and with extensive damage one shift wasn't enough to fix everything. After shifting a couple of times, I was exhausted, but feeling better. Paul had been right, I didn't have the energy to fight anymore.
"How are you feeling, pup?" he asked, and I could tell he was trying to provoke me, but I was too tired to care about some stupid pet name.
"Tired, if that's okay, I will go back to the house and wait for mom, she should be about to get out of work."
"That sounds like a good idea. Stop for a moment at my house, I have some rabbits that you could use for dinner."
I felt happy for the first time in a long time. It was just a matter of days, soon we would be free, and I would be able to start living my life, out of the shadow of Hunter.