Addie (Pack of Misfits #1) - Raven Kennedy
I live with a pack of misfits.
The runts and the prey. The scarred and the deformed. The albinos and, on the opposite spectrum, those with melanism. The rogues, the banished, the crazies, the rare, the small, and the weak. We’re all welcome in Pack Aberrant. In a world where only quintessential predator shifters are respected, life isn’t always kind to those of us who are different.
And it’s not just other shifters. Even some of the other paranormal, arcane races—or Canes, as we all call ourselves—look down on us, too. The only people who don’t judge us are humans, but that’s just because they don’t know what we are.
Most of us would probably be miserable or dead if Hugo hadn’t formed this pack and taken us in. Aside from being the best alpha I’ve ever known, he’s an albino jaguar. He knows what it’s like to be unwanted.
When he was born, his pack leader declared him an aberrant. But in their pack, that title was like a contagious disease; something to be hated and avoided. All because his fur and eyes were a different color than that of his kin.
Hugo was constantly challenged by other jaguars, and he has the scars to prove it. As soon as he was old enough to apply for rogue status, he left and never looked back. He formed Pack Aberrant as a big “fuck you” to his old leader, and the misfits had been lining up at his door ever since.
Unlike other alphas who rule with fear, Hugo is loved and respected by every single member of his pack.
Our pack may not be the strongest, but we totally win the most diverse trophy. There are just over a hundred of us here in Northern California, and we’re a mishmash of bizarre animals that probably look weird together, but we fit. We have each other’s backs and we are fiercely loyal to our hodgepodge pack.
We have our own pocket of land in the Sierra Nevada Mountains, with plenty of space to roam. Everyone who lives in our little makeshift community contributes, either with a job earning money, or doing work around the commune. I do the former, since manual labor isn’t my strong suit. I’m more of an indoors-with-air-conditioning kind of worker myself.
Beth, the bank teller who works next to me, slams her drawer shut and loops her lanyard keychain around her wrist. “I’m taking a break,” she mutters.
It’s the first of the month, so today has been ridiculously busy. My feet are sore from standing all day, and all I want to do is sneak in the back and eat my box of crackers, but we’re short-handed and have a line all the way to the back, so I can’t.
I nod at her distractedly as I continue counting money out to my customer. “Forty, sixty, eighty, one hundred.”
The elderly woman in front of me takes her time re-counting everything. “There’s only eighty dollars here,” she accuses, shooting me a glare. “You’re shorting me!”
I slide my hand over and separate the two bills that had stuck together. She glowers at me, as if I tricked her somehow. I shoot her a winning smile. “Is there anything else I can do for you today, Mrs. Lane?”
She grumbles something incoherent, swipes up her bills, and marches away. I still have a smirk on my face when I call for the next customer. “I can help the next person,” I say, turning my face from the computer to greet them.
The smirk falls from my face when my nose detects his scent. A shifter, and not one from my pack. I immediately straighten up, my eyes scanning him from top to bottom. Nice clothes, blond hair, winning smile. Everything about him screams friendly guy next door, but I don’t fall for it. I’m always wary of other shifters.
“How can I help you?” I ask, trying to force a smile back on my face. I’ve found that it’s better to assess first as a friend, before being standoffish like a foe. But honestly, a lot of shifters do the exact opposite. We’re very territorial and distrusting of outsiders by nature.
The shifter swaggers up to my teller window. “Hey. I need to take out some cash,” he says, passing over a withdrawal slip and ID.
I completely ignore the fact that he’s ridiculously hot. Okay, maybe not completely. But I have a great poker face about it. Honestly, I think it’s his tan that really gets me going. I like it when a guy