Chapter 1Aria s POV
Two weeks earlier
"Come on, Lily, time to get up," I whispered to my six-year-old sister. She rolled on the mattress stretching and yawning, her beautiful sapphire blue eyes fluttering open to look back at me. Our room was the smallest in the Packhouse and at the back of the house away from everyone. The room consisted of a double bed mattress, a window, and a few toys for Lily. All our possessions easily fit in the duffle bag that was also our wardrobe.
"You've been jogging, Ari,," she said, sleepily looking down at my outfit.
"No, they are just comfy now. Come on you have to get ready for school," I sat next to her on the mattress on the floor. Lily sat up frowning at me. I pulled her pyjamas top off before pulling her school shirt over her head.
"Quick, hop up and put your pants on while I get ready," I told her.
I quickly got up, walked over to the duffle bag next to the mattress, and pulled my work uniform out my bag before quickly undressing and slipping it on. I reached for my brush, pulling my hair into a high ponytail before doing the same to Lily s hair while sitting next to her on the bed. I reached over, grabbing her joggers and socks, placing them on her feet and tying the laces. We could hear people moving about in the house. Lily froze, staring towards the door.
"He s up, Ari," Lily whispered.
I quickly threw my shoes on and grabbed the duffle bag, throwing her pyjamas in it and the clothes I had on earlier. Throwing the bag over my shoulder, I walked over to the window, knowing we wouldn t be able to sneak out of the house using the front door. Slowly opening the window, I dropped the bag out before reaching for Lily. She climbed up onto the windowsill before jumping to the grass below. It wasn t a big jump; the house was only one level besides the basement and the attic. I climbed through, jumping to the grass below before reaching up and shutting the window behind me gently.
Running up the side of the house towards the side gate, I glanced to make sure none of the Pack members were in the front yard. It was exceedingly early still. The sun had only just started coming up, light starting to break through trees that surrounded the house. I grabbed Lily s hand and started jogging towards the bus stop at the end of the dirt road, which was also the driveway. As we neared the end, I could hear the bus coming past. We ran faster to the bus stop, getting there just in time. I threw my arm out, waving the bus down. The bus driver smiled when he saw us.
"Hey, Bill," I said, getting on the bus and passing him our bus fare.
"No smile today, Lily?" he asked, smiling down at her. Her lips tugged at the sides before she gave him a big toothy grin.
"That s my girl," he said. We moved to the back of the bus. The drive into town was only ten minutes long, and Lily stretched out on the seat next to me, placing her head in my lap.
"Ari, I m hungry," she said, gazing up at me.
"I know, I will make you some lunch and breakfast when we get into town," I told her as I leant down to kiss her head.
I gazed out the window watching the trees and morning birds. I was over having to live this life. My stepfather was a cruel man, and he was the Alpha of one of the most notorious Packs in the city. I would have left when our mother died, but he wouldn t let me take Lily. I don t know why, it s not like he was ever a father to her. He hated her from the moment she was born, blamed her for our mother s death. I still remember when he brought her home and told me my mother died during childbirth. He shoved little Lily in my arms and said, "Look after it." I remember being confused. I was only thirteen at the time. I knew nothing about babies. I had to drop out of school, give up my entire life. I raised her, loved her, and she became my whole world. I didn t understand how he could reject his own pup, his own flesh and blood.
Lily was an adorable baby; Mum would have loved her. I named her Lily since David didn t even bother to do the paperwork. Lily was Mum s middle name. She was so excited when she found out she was expecting, and so was David, but when my mother died that excitement turned to hate. The Pack suffered for 6 years since. Petrified of him, they would never go against him. He was Alpha for a reason. So here I was, a high school dropout raising my baby sister. Luckily, Mum had everything ready for her arrival before she passed because the Alpha didn t help me with anything. I had to get formula off Pack members. Luckily, even after Mum s death, they didn t hate her or me. They felt sorry for Lily so they would sneak me tins of formula and nappies.
When Lily turned five and was old enough for school, I enrolled her and started looking for a job so I could try and provide for her. It wasn t much, but it was better than having to ask or beg Pack members for anything she needed. I still remember the beating I got when I asked David for some money to buy her school uniform. He split my lip open before dragging me to the basement, where he beat me until I passed out. I shook my head at the memory before looking down at Lily, who was playing with my father s necklace that hung from my neck.
The necklace had a wolf on one side and a man with fangs on the other side. My father died when I was two, I don t remember him. My mother used to tell me how loving he was, but after the Alpha took us in when I was seven, she didn t really speak about him. Alpha David didn t want to hear about her past life. She was his mate, he always thought it was a betrayal that she had a child with someone who wasn t her mate sent by the Moon Goddess.
What made it worse is my father wasn t a wolf. He was a Vampire and my mother was a wolf, therefore making me a Hybrid, which isn t all it s cracked up to be. I m an abomination. I can t completely shift like other wolves. I can grow claws when needed, which is quite painful, and I can also mind link. From my vamp side, I get their speed and sense of smell. I also can t heal like a wolf or a Vampire unless I drink human blood. Being raised in a wolf Pack means I don t get blood, which is okay. I can live without it simply fine, but it means I m always weaker and I can t heal. Alpha David forbids me from drinking blood, and besides him, the only other people who know what I am are my mother and Lily. I hoped one day, Lily and I would be free of this hellhole so I no longer must hide what I am, but that will never happen.
The bus pulled up out the front of the diner I worked at. I quickly pushed Lily towards the exit, stepping onto the footpath.
"Come on, Lily. If we hurry, I will get Marcus to make you some pancakes before school."
Lily took off into the diner to her usual spot, which was close to the kitchen. I watched as she slid along the booth seat, placing her bag down on the red leather seat beside her. Lily loved the diner; she came with me every morning before school and after school, because my shift didn t finish until 6. I would use my lunch break to pick her up from school, but the biggest bonus of working here was Zoe.
The owner was a human woman who owned "Joe s Diner". Her husband was Joe. He died years ago, and she took over her husband s business. Zoe was in her late sixties. She has long white hair that s always pulled into a bun with green eyes and rosy cheeks. She is a bigger woman but one of my most favourite people I know. She always smiled and loved Lily, and since she didn t have children of her own, she kind of took me and Lily in. Zoe always made sure Lily had lunch for school and breakfast and dinner. After Lily got seated in the booth, I greeted Zoe with a hug before walking out to the kitchen. Marcus was standing at the stove with his hippy tie-dyed shirt and jeans, already making Lily pancakes.
Marcus was probably my only real friend; he was a good-looking bloke with his blonde hair and blue eyes, but unfortunately for me, he was also gay. I waved to him as I walked past to find my apron. Lily has pancakes every morning before school. I grabbed my apron and wrapped it around my waist before walking back out to grab the coffee. I started refilling a few customers' cups. Joe s Diner was always busy no matter the time of the day. When I finished refilling cups, I walked back into the kitchen to grab Lily her pancakes.
By the time Lily finished her breakfast, it was 8 AM. I cleaned up the booth Lily was at and ducked back into the kitchen to grab Lily s school bag, which I kept in the duffle bag. As I was walking back through the kitchen, Zoe was already waiting with a paper bag.
"I made her ham and salad sandwiches, and Marcus threw in some quiches from yesterday for her,," she said, smiling, placing the bag in my hand. Lily came running into the kitchen, wrapping her arms around Zoe, her little arms barely making it halfway around Zoe s hips. Zoe smiled down at her before placing a kiss on top of her head.
"Have fun at school and learn new things," Zoe told her. I thanked Zoe before chucking the bag over my shoulder and grabbing Lily s hand to walk her to school. The school was only one block away, so Lily and I walked hand in hand the whole way. The streets were busy with everyone getting ready for work, and I quickly pulled to the side as a rush of people came out of the subway, just in time for us not to be trampled. We quickly made it to the school, stopping just out the front of the gates, and I gave her a quick kiss. "I ll see you at 3 o clock, okay? Have fun," I said before giving her a quick hug.
I watched her run off towards her friends before turning and walking back to the diner. Once I got back to the diner, I quickly went to retrieve mine and Lily s clothes from the duffle bag, but when I opened the bag, it was empty. Before I even got a chance to close it, Marcus walked in.
"Zoe already put them in the wash for you," he said before walking back to the kitchen. I quickly retrieved my apron and went to start taking orders and refilling everyone s mugs. The day went by quickly, and before I knew it, Zoe came out of the kitchen, signalling for me to come over.
"It s quarter to 3, you have to get Lily, dear. Here, eat this on the way. I noticed you haven t eaten since yesterday morning," she said, placing a roast lamb sandwich in my hand with a napkin.
"No, I m fine, really Zoe, you do enough for us already." She refused to take it back.
"You girls are like children to me, don't be ridiculous," she replied before quickly turning around and walking into the kitchen.
I ate the sandwich while walking to the school. As I did, I looked up at all the high-rise buildings. I loved the city; everything was so fast-paced and alive, constantly on the go. I loved watching people rushing around going about their lives. When I made it to the school, I waited out the front for the school bell to ring. I wasn t waiting long before Lily came bursting through the doors with a huge grin on her face. She ran straight towards me wrapping her little arms around me in a hug. I bent down, picking her up and placing her on my hip as we walked back to the diner. She told me all about her day and what she did in class. Once back at the diner, Lily grabbed her books out of her bag and went to sit with Zoe, who was already sitting in a booth waiting for Lily s arrival. Every afternoon after school, Zoe would help Lily with her homework and listen about her day. I waited tables getting ready for the afternoon rush when I suddenly felt eyes on me. I looked up from refilling Lily s cup with water, but no one was there. Shaking off the feeling, I walked back into the kitchen to get the next order ready.