Chapter 1

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I was beginning to have second thoughts about staying.When I woke up early the next morning, the whole household was bustling around getting ready for the start of this competition. I slipped out of my bed and dressed in a flowing white dress and black flats. I left my hair down, and a black bow stood out boldly against it.When I opened my door, my little sister, Lizzy, was waiting for me.There were five girls in my family. I was the oldest, at seventeen; and then there was Alaina, the sweet and quiet fifteen year old that liked to take pictures; the twins, Ali and Addison at ten; and then the baby (who was quite possibly my favorite sister) little Elizabeth. Or Lizzy as we all called her, at the innocent age of five. All of them had inherited my mother's red hair."Emmy!" She squealed, throwing her arms around me. She was wearing a new blue party dress that puffed out, making her look a little like a bell. She had her bear in her hand, and had slung her other arm around my neck. I bent down to pick her up and laughed."Hey Lizzy-Loo. How are you?" She giggled, as usual when she heard the rhyme. "I'm good Emmy. How was sleeping?"I sighed. "I slept okay." Awfully actually, due to the frequent visits to my room, but I wasn't going to tell her that.We passed the twins' bedroom, where we could hear them giggling and getting ready. The occasional cry and bumps were common-they shared a room.Alaina was sitting on the couch looking through a photo album. I set Lizzy down, where she ran off somewhere-probably to wheedle food from our mom or something like that. I sat down next to Alaina, trying not to wrinkle my dress, and looked over her shoulder at what she was looking at."Hey, Laina, those look really good!" She glanced over at me and smiled. "Thanks. I was trying to think of which one I could give to you to take with you while you're gone, but," she frowned at the album, "I can't decide."I motioned for the album and she handed it over. I flipped through the pages. There were a lot of different pictures. Some were still life, some were landscapes, and many of them were of us. In the back, I saw an older picture. I stopped to study that one picture. I knew that Alaina hadn't taken that picture because she was in it. In fact, all of us were in it. It was a few years old, and it showed my mom in an apron, baby bump barely showing. In that bump was Lizzy, even if she hadn't been born yet. Four year old Addison was braiding Ali's hair, and Ali had a doll in her hand. Alaina was snuggled on the couch, absorbed into one of her big books, even at the small age of nine; and I was in the background, sitting on the window seat staring far off into the distance. You could see something in my eyes, but I couldn't tell what. Part of my hair hid my face, and you could tell I was lost in my own little world. I smiled. In that picture, we were all content, all happy.Alaina pushed her hair out of her face, and I flinched. I had forgotten she was there. "I like this one." I said, slipping it out of its plastic holder and handing it to her. She held it out and studied it, her glasses slipping down her nose. "Yeah, it really shows our personalities good, huh?"I grinned and she smiled. Aliana smiled too, but a hint of sadness lingered in her eyes. "Did dad take it?" she asked me so softly I almost hadn't heard her. I knew he had, but telling Aliana that might make her miss him more. "Who knows? The past is the past right?" I pushed a stray strand of hair that was falling into her face behind her ear. Insecurity flashed in Alaina's blue eyes, before smiling up at me. "Yeah, thanks." she paused. "I'm going to miss you so much, you know that right Ems?" "I know sis, I'm going to miss you too." I squeezed her hand and stood up.I went to my room and set the picture onto my desk. I could hear my mom calling for everyone to get outside, so I ran through the house, pausing once to look in the mirror before running out the door.As Alaina, my  mother, and I shifted into our wolf forms, I began to wonder if I'd even seen Aiden and that alpha from the night before or not. It might've all just been a dream. But then how was I so tired? It had to be real, I decided, secretly hoping it hadn't been.The early day held a dim chatter of everyone doing their own thing. I was a blonde wolf with red tints, and my mother was a red wolf, with Alaina being a smaller version of our mother. When a werewolf hit puberty, they would genetically inherit the ability to shift into a wolf. Addison and Ali weren't quite there yet, and I knew that my mother was dreading the day she had four female wolves running around her house.I began to run, looking at my surroundings, and my mom was running alongside me with Alaina on her other side. Alaina held Lizzy on her back, Lizzy bouncing impatiently and asking 'are we there yet' every few minutes. Addison was on my back, and Ali on mom's. The twins relied on each other a lot, and sometimes I felt like they feel that they can only be friends with each other.We ran into the lot where the competition would be announced and we shifted back into human form. As soon as I shifted, everyone in the arena fell silent. I fidgeted uncomfortably and stayed close to my mom as she greeted our pack leader with a 'Good morning sir'. I mumbled the greeting to him as well, and he nodded once before hurrying off somewhere else. We took our seats on the raised wooden stage, and waited for everyone to arrive. When the amphitheater was almost full, the music began to play and everyone stood.The three alphas walked onto the field, and I craned my neck to finally see what they looked like.Two of the boys immediately caught my eye. A tall boy, with unruly blonde hair and crisp blue eyes, with his mouth quirking up when his eyes met mine. He winked, and I smiled faintly.The second boy sent a bolt of fear down my spine. The werewolf boy from last night. He licked his lips, and flashed a confident predatory grin. Ugh. I diverted my gaze.The third boy was the alpha whom I had originally been about to marry. I recognized him from the many pictures I had seen. He had straight light brown hair and dark eyes. He kept a straight, no nonsense face, and even though he was my age, he looked ten years older with his official looking stance. He looked like he would be a good pack leader, but I don't think I'd want to be with a person like that- cold, official, stiff, and seemingly heartless. Maybe I was being a bit dramatic, but all of this was happening so fast.I stood up straight and clasped my hands behind my back, putting on my best face. My mother motioned for everyone to sit down, while she and the other alphas stayed standing."The Easternwood pack is assembled. Present the alphas!" She boomed, her loud voice carrying over the whole amphitheater. I knew that she was following the script of the ceremony, but the way she said it made everything sound spontaneous.The blonde boy stepped forward, his eyes twinkling as he pushed his hair away from his face. "Liam Garrison." He stepped back and then the wolf boy from last night stepped forward and smirked. "Zach Evernight." He stepped back and the boy who I was originally going to marry me stepped forward. "Trevor Arrowood." I stifled a laugh at his name. A jab from my mom turned it into a fit of coughing. He shot me a glare, and I knew that he had heard me too.My pack leader stood up. "The competition for Emily's hand will commence tomorrow. She will spend one week with each of the pack's alpha male competitor and their packs. Afterward, she will choose one of the competitors to be her lifelong mate."I was glad that I was sitting down, because if I wasn't, then I would have passed out in front of all these people. I kept a neutral face, but inside, I was whirling. Tomorrow? One week to pick a lifelong mate? After one week with each of them? They were crazy. They must be crazy. There was no way that was enough time to choose. I looked out into the crowd. On some faces, there was pity, on others confusion, and on most... boredom. I almost laughed at the craziness of it all. If I had run away with Aiden, none of this would've ever happened. But this was my choice. I would live with it.My pack leader had been talking while I sat there, numb, but I was able to catch the back end of what he was saying. "-each male must abide by the old laws. That is, they must treat Emily as if she has a permanent place in their packs. During the competition period, the rivaling male must respect the pack's wishes regarding intimacy, or dire consequences will ensue. The first pack to host Emily will be the Garrison pack." Liam winked at me, and I smirked. At least I may get a nice one the first time around.My pack leader continued. "Farewell, and go in peace." And with that, I was herded off of the stage and into an unfamiliar gaggle of people. I could hear the noises of talking and people getting up from their chairs.They led me back to the stage and left me behind a curtained area. I pulled at the black bow that had begun to fall from my hair. The people told me to shift into my wolf form, and I did, waiting for them to cue me to leave.I sighed. The only competitor who had seemed remotely like someone I could  get along with was Liam, the blonde one. All of the sudden, I missed Aiden. There had been a pink flower on my windowsill this morning, and I think he left it for me.I was anxious for him to come tonight. I had decided that the world would never let us be together, and I still had to tell him.The people came back and told me that my sisters would have a place on other wolf's back's for the ride home, and that I was free to go, I ran as quickly as possible to my house. It was my last night at home, and I wanted to have as much time with them as I could.I went into the house and sat onto the couch, waiting for everyone to come in. And soon enough, they did. They rushed into the house like water flowing through a river. I stood up, and immediately the chatter engulfed me."Why do you have to-""When are-""Don't go-""Why can't you stay-"I held up my hands, and the noise died down. Lizzy hugged my knees, and my mom moved in for a hug. "I'm so proud of you." she whispered, and she moved away to let the rest of my sisters crowd around me. The twins gave me a joint hug, murmuring about how much they'd miss me, and Alaina gave me a quick hug, pressing another picture into my pocket. I didn't look at it. I would when I got into my room. Lizzy kept her arms around my knees, wailing. "No! Emmy don't go-o-o-o-o!!!"I picked her up and held her tight. "It's only for three weeks Lizzy." She sniffled, eyes bright and crocodile tears running down her cheeks. "I don't want you to go Emmy."I hugged her tight and then set her down. "I don't want to go either."I was packing a bag for the second time that week, even though the purposes were vastly different. I threw two more shirts into the duffel, and turned my head to the window. Aiden said he would be here, and all I was waiting for was for the knock.Soon, I wasn't disappointed. The familiar knock sounded: two taps and a thump. I opened the window, and Aiden was there, his pitch black hair falling into his face and his hazel eyes warm and happy.He put a finger to my lips when I tried to speak. We both crawled outside and I hurried to change into my wolf form. He climbed onto my back like he had done so many times before and I took off to our cottage at the top of the hill.We had found the little cottage when Aiden and I were children, and it was the only place where we could be together. Because, he was human. In werewolf world, a human was lower than dirt, dirtier than old dishwater. Because I was a werewolf, and he was a human, it wouldn't work.We arrived at the cottage in a matter of minutes. In my wolf form, we could get there so much faster than that one time when we tried walking.I let Aiden off, and shifted back. I hated to stop running. I felt free when I ran, but I guess that everyone had to stop sometime. We sat at a little picnic table facing each other. I fiddled with my hands, and he was quiet. I couldn't stand it any longer. I just had to get this out."Listen, Aiden, the reason I didn't run away with you was because my family needs me. I have three weeks to get to know and marry one of the alphas to create an alliance between our packs. I don't love them, and you know I would love to run away, but..." I waved my hands helplessly.I looked at him to gauge his expression. Aiden looked strangely uncomfortable, and he licked his lips before answering."I actually understand more than you think, because, you see..." There was silence, and I waited for him to finish his sentence. See what?Unexpectedly, he stood up very fast and flashed me a quick but strange smile.He jumped high, and in midair, changed as fast as lightning. He landed back onto the ground as a very large black wolf.

Author's Note:

ĺAnna: Man... I did not see that coming. Well, actually I did, because I helped write it. I guess you will actually have to wait to see what happens! (P.S: Reviewing helps us update faster!)

Georgia: *dramatic music ensues*

Jess: *Contemplates typing the 2nd chapter* "I think I am gonna be like every  other author out and TORTURE them with anticipation...." *smirks*

Violet: Wow! Cliffhanger! I love it. Now the story is getting even better! Too bad you'll have to wait to read more!

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SPECIAL SIDE NOTE: We usually update on fictionpress.com instead of wattpad, so go check us out there for more frequent updates. These chapters are pasted right into wattpad (which will explain the lack of indentation grrrrrrr) and published whenever we get around to it, but we post as soon as we write on fictionpress!  -QQ

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