I went to get dressed. Dark blue bell-bottom jeans, a black tank top, my black work boots, and my small brown wallet were fine by me. Anybody who said anything could kiss my ass. On my way out, I slammed the door behind me. I chose where I was going, and forty-five minutes later, I was at my best friend’s place. Who knew a conversation with your best girl could be a life-changer?
“Who tied your britches in a knot?” I laughed. All I had to do was hear Annabeth talk and I calmed down.
“Everybody, Anna. Dad’s lied to me for almost twenty-three years. My mother isn’t Patience, but instead, a werecat who looks identical to me.”
She nodded. “But there’s more. Spill.”
“Alistar, you remember him?” She nodded, her eyes lighting up. “He stocked my kitchen, pantry, fridge, and freezer while I was passed out last night. I rarely cook. When I woke up, he was cooking breakfast in my kitchen. Who does that?!” I sighed, throwing up my hands. “But I can’t stay mad at him. Out of everybody I can stay mad at, he’s not one of them!”
“Sounds like a rare breed of gentleman.” She pulled me into a bear-hug. “It’s good to see you. Your family problems will work out. I’m sure of it. Now back to Alistar. What’re you going to do about him? He’s a rare find in today’s world. You know that as well as I do.”
“He is, that’s for sure. His laugh is deep and rich, like music. His blue eyes are so serious, so kind, and so full of life. He’s cute and looks tough with his tattoos and muscles. Sure, he’s a fine guy, but he’s not for me, Annabeth.”
“Go out with him, just once, and tell me that again. You’re bonkers for him! Bring him by sometime.” I sighed and dropped the matter. Annabeth might look like your typical country-girl blonde but she’s so much more than that, stubborn as a mule being one of her most endearing qualities. I stayed until seven then left, not realizing just how right she was.
Entering my favorite bar, I sat down. “Little early for drinking, ain’t it?” I spun around straight into Alistar. He looked worn out, like he’d been running all day.
“Nope. Need something strong. They still there?” He nodded and I ordered two whiskeys. “One for you.” I decided to take Annabeth's advice, this was my one date, unofficial but still, with him. He sat down beside me.
“Last I heard at noon, she’d stay away as long as you wanted her to.” He placed a sheet of paper on the bar. “She said to give this to you. If you don’t want it, she’ll never know.”
“What are you, Alistar?” He sighed and focused his big blue eyes on me.
“Same as you. Shift to both. It’s magnificent. I’m a panther with all the senses of a wolf or a wolf with the silence and grace of a panther. I first shifted at twenty-three.”
“So, I should shift and find my mate tomorrow?” He nodded. About an hour later, he walked out with me. I stumbled in the dark. He reached out and steadied me with a firm hand. I turned, intending to thank him. All rational thought fled as his scent of citrus and mint filled my senses. It was intoxicating, and like a fool, I kissed him. As he pulled away, everything inside of me screamed for more.
“Wait until you find your mate. Even if you want me the way your kiss just said, wait until you know whether or not I’m your mate.” Reluctantly, I nodded and he walked me home.
A few hours later, I woke with unbearable pain throughout my entire body. It felt like every bone in my body was shifting and changing while being lit on fire. Vaguely, I could feel somebody holding me down, hear a voice telling me it was okay. After an eternity, the pain stopped. Looking down, I saw two black paws. I leapt off the bed and landed silently. A voice sounded in my head. Hello, I’m Midnight, your panther side. My bones began to shift again, this time, not as painful. All my senses were heightened and I could hear the neighbors three doors down. I’m Ebony, your wolf half.
Then, I was human again. Once more, the scent I knew all too well of citrus and mint flooded my senses. “Mine.” Both Midnight and Ebony growled in my head. I didn’t realize I’d growled it out loud until he pulled me to him.
Happy birthday, Virginia.” One hand rested on my hip and the other cupped my face. “Heading to a party later. Want to join?”
I nodded. “You gonna kiss me or not?” He laughed and stood me up. I realized then I was in a soft, form-fitting, black party dress. I looked to him for an explanation.
“Panther is dominant, bringing with her the personality of your inner party girl.” He twirled me around and pulled me back to him. His hands cupped my face and he kissed me roughly. Let’s just say, it rocked my world. Several hours later, we were at a masquerade party. My mask was black with red jewels around the eyes. His was plain black. Both only covered half our faces. We laughed, talked, and danced the night away. That night was the first of many magical nights to come.
Thirteen years later, we’re happily married. Who knew it'd all start with taking in a stranger, a conversation with a friend, and a whiskey for my mate? We're running around with a house full of panther-wolves. There's a set of eleven-year-old twins, Maria and Maxine. There’s also nine-year-old Clayton, seven-year-old Daniella, five-year-old Andrew, three-year-old Gemma, and another set of twins on the way. Life couldn’t be better. The wolf pack lets me and Alistar run with them, albeit warily. My mother comes around once in a while to see the kids. My mom, dad, and brothers are over all the time. I’ve joined a pack, ones like me and my family. Life is good at thirty-six, never normal, but pretty good. I’m proud to be a half-breed.
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