2. Capitals make all the difference.

I woke up hours later. How did I know this? I gleamed how much time had passed from how dark it was outside and not from my clock who was a lazy mooch and liked to flash twelve at me for fun. Rubbing the sleep out of my eyes after some therapeutic glaring at my clock, I gradually realized what had woken me up.

There was yelling coming from downstairs as well as the vortex of alpha power that I recognized despite the floor (their ceiling) separating us. Pack leaders are like that. Rowan Carter was our leader and he was cool as pack leaders went. I think—I hadn't met any others—but I often heard older wolves who had transferred packs saying how fair and not insane he was.

Some of the angry voices were unfamiliar, so I went to investigate naturally. And there was the fact that Rowan was here. What the hell had brought him to our house? Yeah, sure, Mom was practically his second, but house calls in the pack from the head cheese himself were rare. So I hurriedly threw some clothes on and brushed my teeth just because my mouth tasted like I had been chewing on roadkill ass.

I didn't bother trying to be sneaky. I didn't have my mother's mad skills, so there was no point. Everyone who was downstairs knew I was coming the second I stepped on the squeaky floorboard right outside my room. Hell, Rowan probably noticed when I woke up. I didn't know what kind of super cool powers pack leaders got, but Rowan always gave off the vibe that he knew what you were thinking. I mean, I'm not saying he's telepathic, but I'm not not saying it either. That would be bad ass if he was, though.

Okay, not really. I might have had some inappropriate thoughts about him once or twice. Hey, Rowan wasn't an old dude or anything. He still looked like he was in his twenties (werewolves age weird) and could have been an editorial model. And not a weird looking one.

Anyway, I couldn't for the life of me think what was going on besides dumb, unlikely things like Mom challenging Rowan. I mean, I think she could take him (she could be as vicious as a bear after an enema), but she liked him too much to beat his face in. Also, she often complained about having to make sure pack members toe the line—she's one of Rowan's enforcers—saying that the only people she wanted to babysit were the kids she popped out of her crotch. Yes, that's a direct quote. It's no mystery why I talk like I do.

Let me tell you, it was a ginormous surprise when I stepped into the living room to see three non pack members. One, an older guy, was yelling at my parents. And another was Piper. That was the surprising part. Piper was sitting on the couch next to Rowan and an unfamiliar woman, looking like he'd rather be pirouetting naked through a cactus patch than be here.

In two seconds I figured out what the hell was going on. The two strangers were Piper's parents. His dad was angry at me for screwing his son. And Rowan was here because I had totally fucked up.

Holy sky cake! Was he here to punish me!?

Piper looked up at me right after I entered the room, right during my freak out. Our gazes locked and my freak out skipped a bit. I found myself staring because it was the first time I had seen him with his normal eyes. They were green. And pretty.

Pretty eyes or not, what the fuck? Why the hell had he told his parents he had screwed a guy? I had been doing a good job with keeping that little fact to myself. How had he dropped the ball? I tuned back into the argument.

"It's written in the fucking air!" Piper's dad yelled. It was the first thing he had been yelling about that I had actually caught. What was? What were they talking about? "This is all your fault!" This was directed at me and I knew that because he pointed at me and took a step forward.

My mom also took a step forward and let out a warning growl. That stopped him. Apparently he wasn't angry enough to have thrown away his common sense which told you fucking with a werewolf's kid wasn't such a bright idea. But I was more concerned with his words than any threatening gestures.

My fault? Correct me if I'm wrong, but there had definitely been two people involved in this mess. Fuck, was he accusing me of turning Piper gay? I would have laughed had I not still been wary about Rowan's presence. I mean, I didn't have that kind of seductive powers.

Did I? No, I'm a spotty, scrawny wolf, definitely no seductive powers here.

"We don't know if it's even..." My dad, who was backing up my mom, started, but trailed off when Rowan stood.

Oh shit! Was this it? Was he going to sentence me? What kind of punishment did you get for turning another wolf gay? Those were the charges right? Or was it just because I didn't do the jamboree right?

"They are Mated, so we can stop arguing about that." Rowan said and melted my brain.

"What!?" My high pitched exclamation made Piper jump. I moved a little so he wasn't in my peripheral and Rowan had all my attention. "No. I swear to Bob, there was no talk of mating." It was true. There had been very few coherent sentences spoken between Piper and I the night before, let alone any offer of the equivalent of werewolf marriage. I would have remembered that.

I looked at Piper just to glare at him. What the fuck had he been telling people? He wouldn't meet my gaze. Ha! Serves the lying bastard right!

"No, not mated, Rory. Mated. Capital 'M'." Rowan explained.

My eyes nearly popped out of my head and I came close to fainting. I shook my head—and barely refrained from putting my hands over my ears—it was the only argument I could dredge up. It wasn't that I just wanted to argue, it was that I wanted so badly for it to not be true.

For my non-werewolf friends, I will explain. You see, mating is usually a loose term reserved for referring to either sex (like on Animal Planet) or mates as in wolves who have been together for a while and usually have children. My parents were mates. In fact, they didn't get legally married until I was like three. For a lot of wolves, pack perception means more than human law. Yeah, I was born out of wedlock, shut up.

And then there's Mating. It's very rare and usually takes place between two very dominant wolves. A male and female wolf, mind you. And in all the cases I've heard about, one of the wolves is a pack leader. That fit Piper, but what about me? I wasn't a girl no matter how not-manly I was.

Anyway, Mated pairs share a really strong bond and there was all this romantic bullshit about how if one died the other would wither away. I didn't care how wonderful Piper was, I wasn't dying for him. He was a stranger. That, though, fit the descriptions I had heard. People went from strangers to all up in each others feelings super fast. Like a Vegas wedding without the excuse of alcohol. Unlike a Vegas wedding, there was no option for a quickie divorce. No one could dissolve the bond between a Mated pair once it was consecrated, not even a pack leader.

You wanna know how the Mating bond is consecrated?

Sex. Fucking sex. Fucking fucking!

This wasn't funny. Even if it wasn't happening to me. Okay, maybe then. I mean, what were the chances that someone would meet their Mate on the annual fuck-strangers-athon? It wasn't fair. I mean, you should feel something when your life is being altered so drastically, right? Like a cosmic heat rash or something to let you know, hey here's your Mate, think before you fuck. But no, all I had felt for Piper was a shit ton of lust.

My silent horror was interrupted by Piper's dad yelling at me once again. "You ruined my son! What wolves will accept a pack leader with a male Mate?" And I really couldn't get angry at him. Well, on my behalf anyway. The guy was an asshole. I mean, who shouts out that their child's now practically worthless in front of them.

Piper was still studying the ground and with his hair in the way, I couldn't see his face. But I had a feeling that the way he held himself so still meant that it had hurt him. I wasn't too happy with Piper right now, but his dad was a douche.

And why was I angry at Piper? Because I had a very strong hunch that he had known about this capital M junk way before I had. Hence the angry parents. Or rather parent. His dad seemed to be the only one really riled up. I looked over at my parents. My mom's irritation was clearly at Piper's dad who was not only pissing all over her territory but messing with her pup as it was. I don't think any of it was geared toward me or what had happened. My dad... my dad just looked worried. I couldn't decide if it was because of the angry werewolf in the living room, Rowan being there, or worry for me.

"Okay, how about you two wait out back?" Rowan phrased it as a question, but pack leaders didn't ask. He was being polite. And it was perfectly obvious who he was referring to. He reached out and put a hand on Piper's dad's shoulder. The anger seemed to leak out of him. See! Total pack leader Jedi powers! Without even turning to look at Rowan, he sat down next to his wife or whatever. Next, he looked at my parents, raising his eyebrows questioningly.

My dad sat down in one of the chairs and my mom followed with an long-suffering sigh, perching on the arm of the chair which raised her above everyone but Rowan who was still standing. It also allowed her to spring up and wolf-bitch slap anyone if necessary. A lot of this wolf stuff was in the nonverbal junk. I sucked at it.

Piper stood and looked at me. I stood there, with my arms crossed, every line of my body saying I wasn't happy (Hey, maybe I was getting better at this posture stuff?). What did he want? Was he trying to stare me down? Already establishing who was the "man" in the relationship? Then I abruptly realized he was waiting for me to show him where the backyard was. Yeah, I still sucked eggs with nonverbal junk.

So I just turned on my heels and went through the kitchen and then outside, letting the door slam shut behind me. Yeah, I was totally letting my pack leader see me acting like a brat, but...damn it! I didn't want this! I was already a freak, I didn't want to add "Mated at seventeen to another dude" to the list.

I went over to the old school swing set that had been semi-cemented into the ground ever since I was a kid. Claiming a swing, I pressed my forehead against the cool metal chain. If I could wake up again and have none of this happen, I'd be as happy as a dog in a ball-licking factory.

The door creaked open and softly shut. I didn't have to look to know it was Piper. That damn perfect fake scent trickled over on the soft strands of wind that were blowing through the neighborhood. That should have tipped me off. Who in the world would smell like everything I loved? My Mate, of course. But I never expected to ever have a Mate or a mate, if truth be told.

"Are you...okay?" The way he asked made it clear that he already knew the answer, but was trying to be nice anyway. I didn't answer. I didn't even feel like letting some sarcasm fly, I was too busy thinking how this was going to royally fuck up my life. I mean, if it got out (and everything does in a pack) school on Monday was going to suck ass big time. Oh, god, what was Lucas going to say? I wished I had something more substantial than a chain to bang my head against.

"I'm sorry I didn't tell you this morning. I wasn't sure."

My eyes popped open at that and then I was standing and glaring at Piper who was leaning against my house in the next second. "You knew this morning!?" You see? I had good hunches. Before I knew it, I was stalking towards him, which was just fucking stupid, one side of my brain—the smart one—reminded me. If dominance could be represented by a scale of one to ten, he was an eleven and I was minus two. But the angry part of me was shouting and repeatedly hitting the rational side of me with a crowbar.

In a few seconds I was a foot and a half away from him. Piper didn't even bother to stand up straight. What the hell? Weren't we equals now? Being fucking Mates and all!? Shouldn't he be baring his teeth and shit? Jesus Christ, he annoyed the piss out of me.

"I did." He said calmly. "And I tried to say something about it to you, but you wouldn't have it. You seemed a lot more interested in getting away from me than in anything I had to say."

That pissed me off more since he was right. But...I had just fucked a stranger! I had every right to be uncomfortable on a panties-too-tight level.

The wind changed a bit, pushing his amazing scent right in my face. I took a few steps back and to the side, less angry than I had been a second ago. For one, it was hard to stay angry when you had a semi going in your jeans and, two, my rational side had wrestled the crowbar from my dumbass, testosterone-fueled side and was now beating the fuck out of him while my self preservation held him down.

"How do they expect this to work?" I asked. "Don't you live...wherever the hell you live?" The question made me think of all the stuff I didn't know about him. Where he lived, his favorite color, his last name, if he had any siblings.

Oh, fuck! I hurriedly scanned the window above where we were standing. It was my brother's room. I hadn't even thought what Oliver would think. I had never brought up me being bisexual or whatever with him. We didn't have those kinds of talks. We didn't even talk about girls all that much. And I knew he was interested in them, he was fifteen and had posters of practically naked bimbos splashed all over his walls. And I just had no gauge of how he felt about homosexual relationships beyond the fact that he—like lots of other dumb teenage boys—thought attractive ladies hooking up was hot.

I let out a sigh of relief when my eyes hit his darkened window. He was probably at someone's house. He was always with his friends these days. So I got a small reprieve, it wouldn't be long before he knew, though. I just had to decide if I was going to be brave and tell him myself, or take the chicken shit route and wait for someone else to do it. I'm not a gamboling man, but I was betting on chicken shit.

And then there was Peyton, my sister, but she was only six. One of my parents had probably called a neighbor to come get her when the shit hit the fan. My siblings—my family meant a whole lot to me. I didn't know what I would do if they looked at me differently after this.

I tried to shake it off and listen to Piper.

"I'm moving here, actually. Rowan's my mentor." Oh. Well, that made sense. Pack leaders usually took on wolves like Piper to teach 'em the ropes of the whole leadership thing so they're not just thrown into a top position just because they have the power to be there.

And then silence descended. Neither of us broke it. What was there to say? You're screwed, I'm screwed, we're all screwed. The end. About five minutes later, my dad came to the back door to let us know that the adults were done talking.

I went to go into the kitchen, but my dad held me back, letting Piper go in. Ah, damn, we were going to have a chat, huh? I turned around to face him, trying to put on a little smile. See? Totally okay son, no need to get all Full House on me.

"Rory." He sighed, slightly chiding my awful attempt at fooling him. I let my pained smile go. "I just wanted to let you know that your mother and I will always be here if you need someone to talk to or just someone to listen." Yeah, that's what I needed, to talk to my parents about my Mating. My Mating that has so far only consisted of sex. "It's going to be okay." He gripped my shoulder a little tighter as if trying to press the conviction into me. I wished it was that easy.

But I nodded and went inside. I had a feeling he knew I was lying.

Back in the living room, Piper's parents were near the door, my mom was sitting down (since the intruders were leaving), and Piper was standing near Rowan.

"Rory, I would like for you to join Piper and me next week."

"For what?" Yeah, I sounded suspicious.

"Well, it was originally going to be a lesson for Piper, but I've decided to incorporate Mating. Besides, as Piper's Mate, you'll have to learn about being a leader as well."

"Okay." I agreed weakly. It wasn't like I had a choice or anything.

"What? You're an expert on Mating now?" It was my mom and she was ribbing Rowan more than anything.

Rowan just shrugged, managing to look more like a twenty-something college student than an immensely powerful werewolf. "I was Mated once." And that was all he said despite the millions of questions the statement invoked. Once? As in not anymore? How the hell had he done that? Did she die? Did he kill her? Why wasn't he dead? Was that just a legend?

And I just knew there wouldn't be any answers. What a rip off.

Everyone left soon after that and I trudged up to my room for the second time in as many days. Even though I had just woken up, I got right back into bed. I was emotionally worn out. And I just didn't want to hear my parents talking about me.


"Get the fuck up, Ror!" The rude awakening was accompanied by the sound of someone kicking my door.

"Go the fuck away, Oliver!" I yelled back, rolling over. Even though I loved my brother and sister to death, I sometimes wished I were an only child.

"You have like twenty minutes to get ready for school, thought you should know, ass hat."

Monday! Shit! I jumped up and did my morning routine at hyper speed, spending a few cuss-filled minutes trying to get my shoe on the wrong foot.

It wasn't until I was rushing downstairs and caught sight of the living room that I recalled the night before. The horrible, horrible night before.

Aww, thanks brain for trying to give me a little bit of time to not be in a crappy mood, but alas, it did not work.

"C'mon!" Oliver yelled, half way out the front door. I looked at him for a moment. He was taller than me and had the muscled-but-not-freakish build common to other wolves. He had our dad's dirty blond hair and his blue eyes. A lot of people found it hard to believe we were brothers. "You going to school?" He demanded, jingling his keys impatiently. It was obvious that our parents hadn't broken the news to him.

Hell, chicken shit, it was.

I scooped up the crap I had dumped out of my backpack on Saturday and shoved it back in. By the time I got out of the house, Oliver was already starting up his car. Yes, my brother, my fifteen year old brother, not only had a driver's permit, but his very own car. How did I get so lame? Well, he had an old Chrysler sedan. A perfectly sturdy, ugly car.

My parents had offered to buy me a car. A nice, reliable, ugly one. If I wanted a pretty car, I'd have to fork over the rest of the cash. I had had my eyes set on a late 70's Mustang, but I kind of wanted a Camaro now. Oh, I wondered where that sudden urge had come from. No, you don't get anything if you guess right. Either Piper's parents were rolling in it or he was an only child. Or he could have inherited it or rebuilt a junker.

Anyway, two weeks ago I had been fired from my job at the Subway rip-off we have for eating all the pepperoni. It wasn't my fault! Werewolves are bottomless pits. I could have cried discrimination, but I had a feeling that it would only land me in a padded cell. So, yeah, my sweet-ride fund was at a standstill for the time being.

Speaking of eating, my stomach gave a terrifying growl as I slipped into Oliver's car. "Stop by The Doughnut Hole." I order.

"How does 'fuck no' strike you?" He said as he pulled out of the driveway. Little brothers, gotta love 'em.

"Shut the fuck up, it's not like you're actually staying in school." It was funny how quickly he looked at me as was the surprise on his face. I just rolled my eyes. "How many people go to our school, Ollie? Not enough for it to escape my notice that you're never around third to fifth period. And let me guess, whatever girl you're doing at the moment pretends to be mom when they call her old cell phone."

It was smart, really. See, we didn't have a regular phone at our house because they're usually on the receiving end of Peyton's rage when she's angry. After a few phones, Mom got fed up and our household went totally mobile. Oliver didn't have one at the time, so Mom gave him her old one. And our dad's an avid call screen-er who hates to talk to "school people" as he calls them. I think he had gone to one too many parent-teacher things.

He sighed. "What do you want?"

I laughed. Blackmail was the usual practice. But...I'd be nice since it was a real possibility that we could soon end up not speaking to each other. "Nothing. Just keep your grades up and I'll let Mom bust you on her own."

He scoffed at that. "Yeah, right. What do you want?"

I looked at my watch, it was fifteen till the first bell. "Doughnut Hole, you're buying."


Three-fourths of a dozen of glazed doughnuts later, I was feeling better. Comfort food really takes on a new meaning when you applied it to werewolves. Eating just made us happy. I parted ways with my brother and headed towards the institutional-looking building. North Ridge High. Blah.

"Rory!" I stopped and looked around. Lucas and Cassidy were hanging by Lucas' car. I changed directions. I was a senior, okay? A few tardies won't matter this late in the game.

When I reached them, I remembered I was angry with Lucas for ditching me. "You fuck. Forget anyone yesterday? I mean..." I trailed off since I noticed the scratch marks on the side of Lucas' face. My eyebrows crawled up into my hair. For there to still be evidence on his skin, the original wound would have been really bad.

Lucas rubbed at the scratches. "You get any wolf stripes?" He asked, using the term that meant any kind of scratches or bite marks you got during sex. I had, but fortunately, they were all gone now.

I shook my head. No, not at the moment. I totally wasn't lying.

"Seriously? I thought you'd get back to the parking lot as soon as you could. When you weren't there, I assumed you were having fun and I didn't want to cock block or anything. She was one of those meek ones then?"

Cassidy laughed. Cassidy was another one of my friends. He was really smart and had been at the top of our class since we were eating dirt. Unlike a lot of other wolves, he found humans really fascinating. Especially girls. I swear he has slept with almost all of the junior and senior girls. Twice.

And who wouldn't? Cassidy, like everyone else, was gorgeous. But unlike a lot of other wolves, he deigned to mingle with humans. He had red hair down to his shoulders, brown eyes and—if I dare say so—beautiful lips. In fact, it had been Cassidy's lips that had first got me thinking about kissing other guys. Not kissing Cassidy, ew. I had known him as long as I had know Lucas. That would be weird. Besides, Cassidy was as straight as they came.

"There's no such thing as a meek she wolf." He pointed out with an eye roll. While he slutted it up through the humans, Cass did not find other wolves attractive. Which greatly annoyed Cordelia, another friend of ours. She had had a giant crush on Cassidy for years. Cordi was persistent, that was for sure.

"Who smells like doughnuts!?" A shrill voice demanded before I was attacked. Okay, I wasn't attacked, but a tiny werewolf flinging herself at you, is still a werewolf flinging herself at you. Emma seized me from behind, wrapping her freakishly long arms around my waist and taking a deep whiff.

"Done?" I inquired.

"No...wait, I think I've begun to build up an immunity." She took another obnoxiously loud breath, digging her nose into my back. I shrugged her off, making her laugh.

"You couldn't bring your buddy o' pal any? Huh? Huh? Huh?" She demanded, doing a weird little jig thing. Emma was like a crackhead. She couldn't sit still. And she was really skinny. And she wasn't a person you wanted to loan money to...I should check her room, things were adding up.

That said, Emma didn't do false advertising. She was a weirdo and dressed accordingly. The girl would wear anything. Today it was a bright yellow sundress (in September), giant combat boots that laced up to her knees, a see-through jacket that looked like plastic, and purple star-shaped sunglasses were perched in her short, dark brown hair that was up in two pigtails, symmetrical for once.

"I didn't have breakfast." I explained-slash-whined.

"Poor baby!" She pouted and dragged a finger down her face, following the path a tear would take if she had any to spare for my plight. So cruel. I was about to flip her off, but she gasped and pointed behind me. I jumped and spun like a badger attack was imminent. But she was just pointing at Lucas.

"You! You are so dead. Like mega dead. Beyond dead. Yep, dead, bath, and beyond. Embrace it because it will come to pass." I exchanged a glance with Cass, who—for once—had no idea what was going on either. Why the freak was Emma yelling at Lucas?

But then—like always—Cass pieced everything together. "Where's...You didn't." He sounded equal parts appalled and admiring.

"What?" I asked, I needed someone to connect the dots for me.

"You slept with Amy?"

"What!?" Me again. I hadn't expected that. Amy was Emma's sister, her twin. Which would explain why she was curiously absent.

"Is she angry or just embarrassed?" Cass asked Emma.

"Hey!" Lucas butted in, but we all ignored him.

"Both." Emma laughed.

"Why is she mad?" Lucas demanded, sounding all kinds of hurt pride. I gave him a sympathetic look. See? I was a good friend. Even after he had ditched me.

Emma shrugged. "She wouldn't give me any details, but I'm guessing..." She held up her hand and put her thumb and index finger very close together.

We all burst into laughter. I said good friend, not great friend.

I was alerted to Cordi's approach by the sound of her ankle-breakers on the pavement. She always dressed like she was going out clubbing, not homeroom. Which was funny since to even get to a club you have to drive an hour and a half away. She, too, was a bombshell. All curves and blonde hair like a 40's pinup.

"Oh, my god! Rory!" She exclaimed.

I was dumb to not to see it coming, really. Cordi breathed gossip. But like a dumbass, I opened my mouth. "What?"

"Since when are you gay?" Instant silence. Would you look at that? I had topped Lucas-sleeps-with-Amy news.

"What?" I said again. It was like my mouth was stuck or set on repeat or something.

Cordi smiled at me encouragingly. "Jeez, Rory, it's okay, you know. We're all your friends here." I looked around at our little group. No, it didn't look too accepting. Shock was the general consensus.

She went on when I didn't spill the gay beans. "I heard from Abel who works nights at the Argus Motel, that one of the new wolves was bitching because his son fucked a guy Saturday. Not just a guy, a Harper kid. Your family are the only Harpers in town, Rory. And Oliver hasn't gone through his heat yet."

I just stared at her, hating her a bit. Why the fuck didn't I run when I had the chance? Because Rory is stupid and likes to frolic through shit storms. I knew I'd have to tell them eventually, you can't keep something like Mating a secret for long (luckily Piper's dad hadn't been spreading that around), but I had expected a bit more time. Maybe a week? Not ten minutes before my comfort zone was shattered into a million pieces.

"I'm going to be late." I whispered and started to leave. Which, was just as good as a "Yes, I am a cocksucker by trade."

Lucas grabbed my arm. "You're serious Rory?"

I shrugged. Lucas let go of me, but I still felt like I was being held there. I hadn't really said anything, dear Cordi had done the all the talking. And she wasn't done yet. Oh, joy.

"Is it true he's going to be a pack leader? I heard that's why his family moved here."

"Whoa, that's some social climbing, Ror." Emma joked weakly.

And then, at the worst possible time, a black and orange orgasm in car form entered the parking lot. Unable to help myself, I watched as Piper parked nearby and got out of his Camaro. And I wasn't the only one. All the wolves in the vicinity were watching him. Some discreetly, others out right staring.

Cass tensed up and a little growl left Lucas. And (worst of all) I could smell the delicate scent of desire being pulled from Cordi and Emma (which happened from time to time, but we ignore it since noticing when your friends are getting hot and bothered is gross).

Piper's presence didn't affect me, though. Well, I grew a bit more uncomfortable and a little bit...sad, but it was probably just because of the horrible predicament I was in.

"Ohemgee, that's him, isn't it?" Emma whispered as Piper entered the building. "How'd you land that, Rory? Are you going out now? Is he your boyfriend?"

Fed up, I rounded on them all. "First of all, it's none of your fucking business what I do. Or who I fuck. And I don't have a fucking boyfriend." There! All set straight.

"Hell, Rory, I'll take him if you don't want him." Cordi said.

I ignored her and stomped my way to the doors to the the sounds of Cass' pouting that Cordi was supposed to be his stalker.

Why the hell did I have friends? Well, by the end of the day, I should know who was still talking to me.