“Last place,” the voice echoed in my head, “Is there any other proof you need to realize that you are not fit to be here?”
I turned my head to the side, looking at the upside-down man standing in the grass next to my platform. I lifted my head, the rest of my body sliding the rest of the way down the ramp. I turned, pulling myself from to my feet. I grabbed the rope bracing to pull myself back up the incline. My body was on fire from head to toes. My head throbbed like the day after Samantha had gotten a guy to buy her some chocolate liquor and the two of us had spent the night downing shots.
“You might as well give up,” the man spoke up, “Whether you complete the course or not, it won’t do anything towards freeing your… Daniel.”
My foot slipped on its grip and I crashed forward, losing my hold of the rope. My body slid back down the ramp.
I stood up, turning to the man angrily, “What the hell is your problem?”
“Right now? You. Just the idea of your kind polluting our population. Every year, werewolves grow weaker. Weaker because they keep breeding with humans, diluting our pedigree. Now, one even tries to compete in our matches. Disgusting.”
“And who are you, exactly?” I snapped.
“My name is Bran, human.”
I cringed; I should have been able to recognize him. He didn’t look a lot like his grandfather Stine, but he held the same sense of superiority and cruel look in his eyes. This guy was definitely the murderer. Stephan didn’t need to look any farther.
“Aren’t you one of the weakest werewolves in the clan?” I snapped.
Bran’s eyes darkened. “My… father bred with a filthy human. Our family was dishonored and we’ve struggled to find suitable werewolf mates. However, all of that will change with me.”
“Is that so?” I responded, “So you found a mate? Managed to defile anyone? Blackmail perhaps. Just like Stine, a chip off the old block.”
“You bitch,” Bran snarled, taking a step forward as if he was going to leap onto the ramp and tear my throat out.
“Bran!” a strong voice came from above. “What are you doing? We need to prepare for the final competition tonight.”
I looked up the ramp to see Treena standing at the top of it. She still wore the cloak from earlier, but the hood was pulled back from her head.
“Is that how you did it?” I asked in surprise. “You became his mate?”
Treena’s eyes didn’t meet mine, but Bran turned and laughed, “You see! I have a strong mate. I’ll be the next Alpha, and my children will be the strongest this clan has ever seen.”
I turned to Treena with pleading in my eyes, “How could you subject yourself to someone like him? How could you do this to me… to Daniel?”
Treena threw me an angry glare, “How dare I do this to Daniel? I’m doing this for Daniel!”
“Daniel’s wife, a pathetic human, playing at being a werewolf. You aren’t strong enough for him, you never were. You don’t even seem to love him. You see him as a friend. I can tell!” Treena snapped, “I love Daniel. I’ve always loved Daniel. I’ll give anything for him… anything!”
I stared blankly in confusion for a moment before it started to make sense.
“The pardon,” Treena continued, “I help Bran win Alpha and I give him strong children. He pardons Daniel for the crime.”
“He’s lying, he won’t do what he says!” I asserted.
“Why wouldn’t I?” Bran responded, “I can pardon three crimes. I’ll have to use two to get my grandfather out of jail for treason and kidnapping, and I can use the last to excuse Daniel from murder. I get what I want; she gets what she wants. Daniel can leave with you. He doesn’t want to be Alpha. He doesn’t want to be here. Everyone wins.”
“Why do you even care?” I snapped, turning to Treena, “If I recall, it was your elbow slamming in my face that knocked me out of this one.”
My memory was starting to return to me now. The frantic hustle from obstacle to obstacle and the power surging through me. Treena and I were in the lead for a bit, however, the venom started losing effect and I went to take another dose. Treena slammed into me and then darkness.
“I’ve told you once before,” Treena grumbled, “Daniel would be broken if something bad happened to you. The last competition is tonight. In order to win Daniel’s Alpha at this point, you’d need to score first place, and that isn’t going to happen. It’s dangerous, the most dangerous of all of the competitions. If I got Daniel’s pardon, only for his girlfriend to die in the process…”
Treena turned away, not finishing her thought. Part of me wanted to trust her. However, trusting her actions still depended on trusting Bran at his word. I just wasn’t willing to do that.
“Let’s go, Treena,” Bran barked, turning to leave in a flimsy imitation of an Alpha male.
Treena slinked after him, and I shook my head. Too many people were using other people. It bothered me. Was that all I was doing? Were these boys in my life just tools I was using? Stephan’s immortality, Allan’s intelligence, Victor’s venom… Were those just things I was collecting to get my own way? What would Daniel do in this situation?
“Jane!” a voice brought me out of my thoughts, “You coming? They’re having the banquet in the next hour and when the sun sets the final challenge begins.”
I looked down to see Rune looking up with concern in his eyes. I jumped down off the platform, stumbling a bit as I hit the ground.
“How’s Stephan’s search?” I asked as Rune helped me regain my footing.
“He says he needs more time.” Rune seemed annoyed, hesitating before continuing, “Jane, the guys have been talking, we really think you should quit.”
I shot him an angry look, “You think I can’t do it either?”
Rune waved his hands in defense, “It’s not that, it’s just we have been hearing about this last one and it seems like a death match.”
The emotions seemed to expel out of me. I didn’t have the ability to do this. I should quit. No one would expect anything else from me.
“Rune,” I asked, “Am I selfish?”
Rune watched me a second before a sneer appeared on his face, “Yup.”
I blinked; that wasn’t the answer I thought I’d receive. At least Rune was being honest, I supposed I didn’t deserve anything less.
“You’re probably the most selfish person I’ve ever met,” Rune continued.
“Alright, Rune,” I lowered my eyes, the weight of it crushing me.
“You see, normal people want things for themselves. You want things for other people.”
“You want Daniel’s freedom. You want Stephan to no longer feel lonely. You want Alex to feel loved. You want Andrew and me to stop fighting. You just want, want, want…”
“But, those aren’t things for me.” I defended.
Rune nodded as if dwelling on my words carefully, “Yes, but you want so much more than anyone I’ve ever met. You don’t want a few little things for yourself, you want an entire world where people are happy and your friends can live in harmony.”
“And that makes me selfish?” I gave him a stern look.
“Incredibly so… but when I look at you, you and your selfishness, it doesn’t make me feel very demonic.”
“Is that so? How does it make you feel then?”
“Giving. The more you want, the more I want to help you get it,” Rune grinned before his look became serious, “So tell me, Jane, what do you want?”
I looked back at the obstacle course before turning to Rune once again, “You’re not going to like it.”
Rune nodded, “A lot of the things you do piss me off; however, I guess you can say we’re friends. I care about you, and so do a lot of your other friends. That’s why we’re all here. We’re not here because we have to be. We’re here because we want to be. Even Ryan volunteered to help. He said he owes you one. So we’ll help you any way we can.”
A smile grew on my lips. What would Daniel do? What would I do…
“Very well,” I smirked, “In my official, selfish capacity, I don’t want you to do anything.”
Rune frowned, “What do you mean? What do you plan to do?”
“I want to show these werewolves exactly whose Alpha.”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?”
I snorted,” No… it’s a horrible idea, but what can I say? I’m selfish.”