Petra decided at the ripe age of nine years old that she would never take a mate.
She declared this, much to her mother's chagrin, to a dinner of a handful of their family's closest friends.
Petra was being raised as the lady-like daughter of one of her pack's beta families. More specifically, she was being raised to be a representative for her pack. And where a human parent might have warned her daughter to sit with her legs crossed or get a pop on the bottom, Petra's mother decided to take what she believed to be a gentler approach.
"Petra, I don't want to have to remind you again, take your elbows off of the table," her mother whispered under her breath, tapping her daughter's arm. They were sitting in their formal dining room with some of the other beta families, but their pups had been given the night to spend with a babysitter. Petra sighed and pulled her arms back from the table, placing her hands in the soft pink chiffon covering her lap. She let her eyes roam the table, spying her littermate eating his steak with an elbow planted firmly on the tablecloth.
"Mama," Petra whined, "Peter's got his elbow on the table."
"Nobody likes a tattle-tale, dear," her mother warned, eager to return to the conversation she'd started with the woman to her other side.
Petra leaned back in her chair, folding her arms over her chest with an exaggerated "harrumph," twisting her face together, similar to as if she'd just popped a too-sour lemon in her mouth. Her mother turned, annoyance clear in the bend of her brow.
"Petra!" she admonished. "Sit up and act like a lady." Petra sat up straight, but changed nothing else about her demeanor. "Uncross your arms, right now," her mother hissed, her voice so low Petra barely heard it. But, oh, did she feel the command in her mother's voice. Before her mother could comment on her face, her father looked over and shared a hearty laugh at his daughter's expression.
"Dear, don't let your face go sour like that," he warned jovially. "It might get stuck."
Petra screwed her face up even more in defiance. "So what if it does?" she pouted.
"You'll be hard pressed to catch a mate with your face stuck like that," her mother replied in a light tone, her eyes flicking disapprovingly over her daughter. Petra did everything in her power to avoid rolling her eyes, an unforgivable act of attitude in her mother's mind. She hated when her mother brought up her future mate. It was her favorite way to try and get her to change her behavior.
The adults at the table had all caught on to the spectacle right now and were passing jokes about un-lady-like behavior and the unfortunate fater of her future catch. Petra knew she wasn't allowed to reply to the adults, she'd had her bottom smacked one too many times for talking back to adults, but no one could stop her when her littermates caught on to the joke.
"Petra's got a face even a mother couldn't love!" Peter joked, sticking her tongue out at the girl down the table.
"Don't be too kind, Peter," Pierre replied, slyly. Petra narrowed her eyes. Pierre was the oldest of their litter, and liked to think himself the alpha of it as well. "She's got a face even a mate couldn't love. You heard Mama say it."
Petra, annoyed at being the center of the joke without anything to say back, had had enough. With resolution thick in her voice, she relaxed her face and nodded her head. "I am never going to take a mate then!" The whole room fell into a hush.
"Oh, Petra, don't say that," her mother cooed, running a hand to smooth her messy blonde locks. "We were all just having a bit of fun."
"I don't care!" Petra replied, her voice small, but powerful. "You never tell Peter or Pierre that they won't find mates when they behave badly and I'm tired of it. If having a mate means I can't wear pants, or I can't play wrestling anymore, or I have to brush my hair every day, then I'm not interested." She stuck her nose in the air, took her fork and knife in her delicate hands, and began to eat the rest of her dinner, a peace evident in her features.
Petra's father began to laugh heartily, the sound spreading from his belly and filling the room. "Oh, she'll learn once she discovers boys," her mother joked, nervousness lacing her laugh, though still a beautiful accompaniment to Petra's father's. Petra dared to glance down to Pierre, a frown planted firmly on his lips, knowing that Petra had usurped his joke. Petra didn't bother to say anything, only gifting him a wicked smile.
In twelve years, nothing had changed about Petra's attitude.
"Have you thought about the McCormick's boy?" her mother cooed. "I've heard he's on the market."
Petra sat on the counter of her parent's kitchen. She rolled her eyes as her mother turned to chop vegetables, popping a grape into her mouth with a snort.
"I haven't thought about anybody, Ma," she responded. "Plus, I outrank him."
Her mother responded with a huff of frustration. "It's going to be hard to find another alpha when you refuse to run a brush through your hair, Petra." Petra shrugged, popping another grape into her mouth. It wasn't anything she'd never heard before. Her parents had been overjoyed when she'd presented as an alpha during her first shift. From the age of fourteen on, she'd been sent on countless blind dates and forced to sit through numerous mating meet-ups. By the time she'd graduated high school, she put her foot down and refused to be set up.
"If he can't love me for me," Petra replied, a smug smile developing on her face as she quoted her father, "then he'll never truly love me at all." Another exasperated sigh.
"You could at least put a little effort in, Petra!" her mother nearly screamed. "Your father won't take your side on this forever."
"I know. That's why I went to college." Her mother turned from her vegetables, glaring at her daughter. Petra raised both her hands in the air in surrender. "If looks could kill, Ma, I'd be dead." Her mother huffed again but turned back to her dinner preparation, muttering a few choice words below her breath.
Petra knew her mother had a hard time accepting how she'd decided to live her life. Petra's mother had lived her entire life dreaming of meeting her mate, raising a family, and making a place for them within their pack, and that was exactly what she did and she did so excellently. She was a proudly distinguished member of the pack and the matriarch of their family. Without her, her family never would have become one of the most loved beta families in the pack. Petra loved her mother dearly, and for that reason would often bend to her will when it came to pack matters. Despite attending college three hours south for four years, she'd never once missed a monthly pack meeting nor had she ever, despite all her willful personality quirks, caused a scandal for her family. The same couldn't be said about her littermate, Pierre.
"Come on, Ma," Petra cooed, hopping down from the counter and wrapping her arms around the taller woman's waist, "let's not fight during my last dinner at home." Petra's mother relaxed her body, wrapping an arm around her daughter. For how powerful Petra was, the power was packed into a surprisingly small package. With Petra standing only a few inches over five feet, her mother towered over her by nearly a foot.
"You know I'm just worried for you," she whispered.
"I know," Petra replied, smiling up at her mother.
Her mother rustled Petra's hair. "Now go brush that before your father comes home." Petra laughed, sauntering out of the kitchen to obey her mother's request. She climbed the stairs and followed the long hallway to her room at the very end. Every time she came home she was accompanied by a burst of nostalgia. She'd had no hand in decorating the lavender, fairy-tail themed room, but she also didn't quite mind it. As a teenager she'd resented the childish furniture, built custom by her father with carved ivy climbing the wooden bedposts, but now treasured the furniture as a labor of love. She had two clear bins stacked near the entrance to her room containing all the worldly possessions she'd be taking with her that night.
Petra neared her old vanity, covered in pictures of her and her brothers. Petra was one of seven from two separate litters, the only girl and the only pup to present as an alpha. All six of her brothers, to her parent's immense relief, had presented as strong betas. Four of her brothers were long grown, most of them with their own mates building their own families, but she'd been lucky that they made a point to be involved in her litter's lives. Petra, Pierre, and Peter would often visit their older brothers individually over the summers to give their parents a break.
With chagrin, Petra pulled a brush from the vanity surface and ran it through her hair. Her hair had remained platinum through puberty, but with time had only become unrulier. She'd chopped some pretty severe layers in it to keep her wavy locks from taking over her breathing room, but despite her efforts her hair just kind of existed, defying the laws of gravity. Petra was alright with it, but it had tormented her mother since the day she was born.
Petra loved her family, she did. She just wasn't quite cut out for what they had in plan for her. She had no plans on finding a mate. She had an easy three hundred years of vitality left in her and she didn't want to spend the entirety of it with her fate entwined. She'd spent her entire childhood bearing the weight of her family's status in the pack upon her shoulders and she was not about to spend the centuries stretching out before her carrying that weight.
Her family didn't know that she was going rogue. Petra sighed, sitting on her bed for a few minutes. She looked down at her hands, her fingers intertwined together. She'd been planning this since she was fourteen and she realized it was even possible. After her first mating meet-up, with the son of the alpha, no less, she'd thrown herself into finding a way out of her fate. She'd holed herself up in the pack library for weeks, reading as many texts as she could until she stumbled upon a small book of incantations. It was believed that only the Alpha could release her from the bonds of the pack, but the book told her otherwise.
The little purple book was nearly seven centuries old, its owner lost to time. It was written in old German and annoyingly cryptic, but it had offered Petra a key to her freedom and she had gleefully accepted it. Most of the were community had abandoned practicing magic centuries before as the Inquisition blazed through Europe and the puritans in early America had sent hundreds of witches and other magic users to their deaths. Most weres had lost access to the ability to practice magic through disuse, but the threads of mystical energy were still available, easily plucked from the earth, to those with enough power and enough will. Petra just so happened to have both.
She'd practiced the words time and time, let the lilting tune of old German run from her mouth. She'd been practicing her magic, building a repertoire of small spells until she had built up the resources to sever the bond between herself and her pack. Her parents hadn't been pleased when she'd gone off to college, but she'd known she'd need a profession to survive in the human world and coding paid very well. Through freelance work and internships in college, she'd managed to save up a couple thousand dollars, buy herself a car, and find herself a job far, far away.
She heard a distant beeping, the timer on the oven going off. With a resigned sigh, she pulled herself to her feet and trudged down the stairs with a wide smile on her face to join her parents and littermates for their last dinner: probably for a long, long time.
Hours later, Petra laid upon the hood of her car, staring at the sky. She'd pulled into a rest stop, settled firmly in the middle of nowhere where she had a clear view of the stars. There was a chill in the air, but she didn't let it bother her.
She'd left a note for her mother so that she wouldn't worry too much. It wasn't much, just a piece of stationary laid upon her bed.
I'm sorry it had to be like this, but it was really the only way.
You know my number if you ever need me, but I won't change my mind.
I love you,
They'd probably discover it as soon as she spoke the words that had been pausing on her tongue for the past hour. Her parents would be devestated, but she hoped that with time they would understand.
Her heart was racing, facing the permanence of the actions she was determined to take. She continued to find solace in the stars for a few more moments before she snapped herself into action. Standing up, she walked a few meters into the woods, making sure that no one would be able to see her.
She closed her eyes, allowing for a meditative calm overcome her. She cupped her hands, willing a flame to warm her palms. Within seconds a white flicker came to life between her hands, solidifying her connection with the magic surrounding her. With great caution, she allowed herself to feel the energy swirling around her and began to search for her connection to the pack. With this distance, it was faint, but she easily plucked it out. She raised the flame before her opening eyes, gone completely white, and spoke the words she'd been waiting to speak her entire life.
"Ich breche diese Verbindung."
The words were barely more than a whisper, but as soon as they fell from her mouth the flame grew, flashed, and disappeared, leaving a few white sparkles to burn out in the air.
Petra was silent for a few moments, unmoving, as she felt for the connection. As she realized that all traces of the connection had been obliterated, a smile larger than had every graced her face grew. She laughed, tears developing in her eyes. She fell to her knees, sobbing in delirious happiness.
The weight of her pack was gone and, for the first time in her life, she was free.
A/N: Hey guys! Just wanted to pop in to say that this is not written in the same universe as Hunted. I'm still finishing Hunted, of course, but I've been itching to write something new. Also, I hope you like this one! I'm so excited to finally start writing it after thinking about it for so long. As always, I appreciate any constructive criticism!