The Darkest Wolves - A.K. Koonce


That Crazy Bitch

“The crazy wild bitch is finally becoming a crazy married bitch,” my cousin Lisah murmurs to her mother, as if I can’t hear her sneers from behind me.

I broke her nose when we were seven. It still leans on her pudgy face just a fraction of an inch to the left. The kids used to call her Lazy-Nosed Lisah because of it. To be honest, I still do when I need cheering up from time to time.

When I glare at her in the full-length mirror, I know she and I are both sharing that fond memory.

“I wish I was as beautiful as you on my mating day,” Nyra whispers with a soft smile on her plump lips. She’s good at ignoring Lisah. At ignoring any nasty words really. So damn good it makes me wonder if all of my anger is to make up for her abundance of disgustingly pure happy thoughts.

She’s pretty. Wholesome. Soft hair like the sun, and eyes as dark as the night. She’s a muted appearance of myself really. Our lips, they’re the same though. I see myself in her when she smiles, even if I’m not naïve enough to feel the happiness she feels every single day of her sweet life.

Because the Goddess Moon blessed Nyra with kindness.

A woman’s life as a wolf shifter has many rites of passage. At thirteen, we become a woman, a real member of our pack’s society. And during the blessings of that celebration, a mage of nature comes and connects us to our Goddess. One gift is all we’re given to guide us in this life.

I remember wishing like hell for the gift of intelligence. Or strength like my mother. Or even some fucking poise to help me with the battle training I once did with my father.

The possibilities are endless. The blessings of our Goddess Moon know no bounds.

And that’s why I was blessed with beauty.

A fucking face.

That’s what the Goddess gave me. A flawless complexion where others got bravery. A nice ass while my neighbors flaunted their wit, innovation, and perseverance.

I mean, sure, my pants fit great, but would it have killed the Goddess to wonder if I might need something more than filling out a good pair of trousers?

The sigh that blows from my lungs fans the pale locks hanging in perfect curls around my features. The hair my mother is braiding here and there hangs down to the waist of my sheer mating gown.

Today’s the day…

Cue the fireworks.

And depression.

The females around me idly gossip. The chatter is endless and grates against my mind. Of course, they talk about Mika. He’ll be a good mate. A strong man who should fulfill his duty to me and load my uterus up with litters and litters of pups to make our pack proud.

Yes, my uterus is one lucky bitch indeed. Listen to her rave about the thought of waddling around and crying constantly about the way her left hip hurts when it waddles a bit too fast:

Silence. My uterus is fucking silent.

Because it’s in mourning, let’s face it.

“Cersia, you’re going to be glowing once you’re pregnant. You’ll finally experience true happiness,” my cousin, Lisah, says to smooth things over.

“You’ll do our pack proud,” my mother agrees.

“Indeed, I will truly spread my legs with honor,” I say before I can stop myself.

I feel my lips tense up in that way they always do when I try to force a smile. The women look at my blank look of lunacy with the flat tilt at the corner of my plump red lips.

“Oh,” Aunt Helana whispers slowly like realization just bitch-slapped every one of them at the same damn time.

Shit. I didn’t smile right… Why does my face do that? Why?

“Glowing. Definitely.” I nod to try to ease the tragic look of worry every single one of them is tossing my way. “I will glow so fucking hard,” I add before trailing that thought off into tense silence. “I’m going to lie down.” I finally let it go while staring at them in the mirror, but I can see the damage is done.

I say nothing for a beat longer, and during that time, Lisah whispers something about crazy once more to Aunt Helana. She always has to drop the C word around me.

The cunt.

My eyes narrow on the round woman, and her mouth snaps shut in an instant, because my mother will never tell them my one hidden secret. Instead, she’ll warn them every day of their lives about my