Claiming His Family by Rosa Mink

Prologue

Tawni

Awhimpering cry slips through the night and into my tiny makeshift cabin.  It’s not pretty but it’s what I now call home.  Has been for the last two years after I ran away from my pack, away from the torture they put me through.  For ten years I was the unwanted burden.  They treated me worse than the lowest of the omegas all because who my mother was.

They punished me for her supposed wrongdoings.  Of which they never did tell me all of them, only the one that was most grievous to them.  My mother supposedly slept with a human and got pregnant with me.

They made me wait on them, from the time I was seven and able to carry a bucket to mop.  I rarely was allowed to go to school.  Only if all of the chores were done, and as we got older, the others knew if they made a mess after I’d already cleaned something, I’d have to do it again.

I’d be on my way to the bus when the alpha’s wife would storm out of the packhouse and drag me back into it by my hair.  The beta would whip me while I was recleaning the mess, not believing that I had already done it once.

By the time I was twelve, I knew better than to leave the packhouse and bother with it.  I’d be whipped whether they messed it back up and I tried to defend myself or if I said I was just moving slowly that day.

It wasn’t worth it any longer when I turned thirteen, the older boys would make fun of my body, the extra weight I couldn’t lose, the boobs I was growing, and they’d try to grope me.  Hell, the others would purposely mess up what I’d just cleaned, in full view of the rest of the pack and if I didn’t move fast enough to clean it again, out came the whip.

When the beta brought it out, dripping with wolfsbane after I fought back against one of the boys’ groping, I was done.  I drug myself back to my little closet of a room, packed a bag with everything that would fit, then snuck into his office and took what I’d earned over the years of being their servant.  Actually, it was far less than what I’d earned considering I worked sixteen hours a day.

The clothes I wore were always someone else’s first and I ended up fixing them so the holes and tears wouldn’t show off my body.  The food I prepared, and it was only the scraps left over that no one else wanted I was allowed to eat.  My room was an actual old closet with a mattress thrown on the floor, and I could only use the bathrooms when I was cleaning them.  I’d have to take a shower then clean it again or end up punished.

For six years I endured it with nothing to call mine, but after that last beating, I took five thousand lousy dollars with me.  That works out to less than a dollar an hour of work for one year, more like eighty-six cents an hour for all three hundred and sixty-five days of one year.

I intended to take it with me to the city and hide there, but when I realized just how much it would cost, I decided to go another route and live off the land as best as possible.  I didn’t look thirteen thanks to my shifter genes.  Even if I was still a bit plump, I looked older, enough to fool people into thinking I was eighteen when I was stopped a couple times.

I finally found this little town, it’s five states away from where I grew up, and this cabin was already built here deep in the woods.  A little bit of asking around the town and I learnt it was abandoned, the old man that lived there died years before and had no family.  No one wanted to buy the place, so the town owned it.  Which gave me the perfect spot to hide and teach myself what I hadn’t been able to learn in school.

I purposely avoided areas with other shifter packs.  My old pack would be looking for me, not because they want me back, but because they’d want revenge.  I ran right under their noses.  Took money from them.  Left them without a servant.  That would result in severe punishment if I was found back then.

If they find me now, they’d kill me for sure.  They wouldn’t want to risk me talking to other shifters about the practices of their pack.  If I thought I’d be safe, I’d have gone straight to the territory alpha over them and told them everything.  The issue with that is that the territory alpha’s beta is my old alpha’s cousin.  He’d stop me before I could tell them anything.

Especially if my mother’s journal was right and my father wasn’t a human, wasn’t an omega.  She never said who, only that it was a relative of an alpha.  Considering how many packs were in the vicinity of my old one, that was a hell of a lot of men it might be, because she never said it was our alpha they were related to.  I’d never want it to be someone related to him.

The sound comes again, and I move out of the cabin, through the woods towards it.  It’s coming from the opposite way to town, deeper into the woods which is strange.  No one ever ventures through the woods back there.  Not once in the two years I’ve been here has anyone been out in them.

Almost a mile later I stop in my tracks, seeing what’s making the noise.  A little baby boy that can’t be more than a few weeks old.

The scent of another shifter reaches me, and I look around, not seeing anyone.  The baby’s scent carries shifter, but it’s gentle unlike the other whiff I got that carried hints of danger, malice.

I can’t just leave the poor thing out here by itself and I pick him up, holding him close when he stops crying.  I follow the other shifter’s scent for almost a half mile further away from the cabin, but find nothing, no one.  Someone just left him here.  I can’t believe someone would just leave a newborn like this, let alone a newborn male shifter.

Shifters don’t do this.  Wolves especially don’t do this.

The only thing I can think is that someone took this baby, wanted him gone.  Left him in the woods where no humans travelled in order to kill him.  Which would mean a pack likely looking for him.  A mother that wants him desperately.

I move back to the cabin with the baby, cleaning him up and use a dish towel as a new diaper.  There aren’t any shifter packs within four hundred miles of here, which means a bit of a journey if I’m going to figure out where he belongs.  Maybe his parents and pack will be appreciative of me returning him and let me stay with them, offer me their protection from my old pack, so I don’t have to live like this anymore.

It’s not working to support myself that’s getting to me, it’s the isolation.  Wolves aren’t meant to live alone.  It’s why we have packs, and maybe just maybe, there’s one that won’t look at me like a rogue, and accept me, let me find some comfort finally.

My bag’s packed in no time, the baby sleeping snug against my chest, and I head to town first to get supplies.  I grab diapers, clothes, bottles, formula, a blanket, and a pacifier from the store where I’ve worked since coming here.  They at least have paid me decently, and I used little for food to feed just me.  The place is currently closed but I have the key, which I leave with cash to cover the items I bought, letting my boss know I’m leaving town unexpectedly and might not be back.

I set off before the sun’s coming up, hoping to find a better future than I’ve found so far.