Denny and speeding are normal, but speeding is an understatement of what was happening as he pulled into the garage shutting the big door behind us. He opened the door, letting me leap from the car as my shift took over. An ear-splitting howl tore from my muzzle. While I don’t know what set us off, I do know that she wants to rip that blonde’s throat out, and I want to punch Atlas in the face. I ran through the door as Denny opened it, heading for the steps. I barreled through my bedroom door, letting my wolf sink into the nest that is my bed. I fell into a deep sleep in the darkness of my room, with my heart wrenching from my chest.
My mother’s delicate hand rubbing the hair from my eyes woke me up before dinner. “Wanna talk about it?” She is a wonderful mom, but I don’t know how to describe what I am feeling right now. So, I settled for a half-truth. “I don’t want to go back there. I clearly do not belong in that place, Mom! I can’t even reach my locker. Denny has had to help me all day.” She looked me over with a contemplating gaze before shattering any hope I had of returning to homeschooling. “I know, honey. But it is the alpha’s orders.” My skin prickled at her words. “It’s bull s**t, Mom, and you know it.” I growled. “Language, Harley Grace! I don’t like it any more than you do, but we cannot deny that pompous asshole’s orders. Just make it through the next six months, and you can take the exit exams and decide if you want to attend college right now.”
She snapped back, jumping to her feet to leave me with my thoughts. The exit exams are very similar to the ACT humans take to graduate. The exit exams mean you have completed the required learning and no longer need to attend high school instead of determining your college readiness the way the ACT does. I can score high enough to exit if today’s classes indicate what that exam will look like. I did my homework for the week in one sitting during study hall today. I knew the material without being taught it. I showered and skipped dinner. Then I fell asleep with The Art of War on my chest. I decided to listen to my mother. For six months, I would get up and attend my classes, avoid the twins, and take the exit exams. Just six months.
The following day, I threw on my Converse and the fugly-ass uniform and stuck to my word. Denny had a meeting this morning with Dad and would be late returning to school after dropping me off. Axel and Atlas were at their vehicle when we pulled in, and my heart immediately fell into my butt. My eyes roamed, appreciative of how handsome they looked all the time. I do not know how they look so handsome in these ugly uniforms, but they really pull it off. “Could you guys help Harls with her locker until I get back?” he asked out of the window, mortifying me. “I got it, Den. Thanks!” I said, jumping from the car and rushing to the steps. Both twins just nodded to Denny as they made their way toward me. I was practically running to avoid them, but with their height, they caught up to me quickly. Atlas leaned in closer to me, keeping his voice low. “Did you enjoy the show yesterday, little bird?” I froze. Had he seen me? “I—I don’t know what you are talking about, Atlas Grimm.” I was surprised I sounded so collected, considering the storm in my stomach. His dark laughter shot sparks across my skin that took me by surprise. Making me rub the static from my arms. I ran into the classroom across from my locker to see if I could bum a chair to reach my locker, only to be embarrassed when the teacher told me no. My blush ran deep into my chest when I saw the twins leaning on my locker, looking extremely amused. “Come here, little bird.”
Axel stood upright, summoning me forward. I craned my neck, making eye contact with him, preparing for a smart-ass remark that I would pretend didn’t hurt my feelings. Surprise fleeted through me when he turned me, lifting me gently like Atlas had yesterday. I made quick work of the lock, grabbed what I needed for my first class, and quickly closed it. I turned to face them when I was safe on the ground. My embarrassment raged when he patted my head, and they both left me with smiles on their faces. Butterflies erupted through me at the thought of how tender Axel had been with me, a thought that I quickly shoved aside as I shamed myself for my silly crush on the two boys that hadn’t been nice to me since we were all small children. Much like yesterday, I had started falling into a routine, and lunch came around quickly. I made a crispy chicken salad topped with summer berries and packed the twins one too. I felt silly for even making an effort. Denny tore into his, moaning and groaning like a starving bear. “This is so good.” He groaned through a mouth full as the twins sat down with their trays of mystery meat. I pinched my nose at the odd concoction and turned to dig for their bowls in the bag, quickly sliding it their way. “That smells.” I mumbled with my nose scrunched. “Yeah, well. Our mom doesn’t pack our lunch, little bird.” Axel’s tone dripped with irritation as he scooted the nasty trays away, opening the lid to his salad. Their mother died long before I could remember, and I had only heard stories about her. “Neither does ours. Harls gets up at five every morning to make our lunches. She did even before she started here.”
Denny snorted, shoveling more into his mouth. “I was hoping if I kept you big starving alphas from eating this nasty crap, you wouldn’t be so hateful about helping a girl out with her locker situation.” I said, forking my food into my mouth. The three of them snorted in unison like I had made a joke. “I don’t know what the air-heads in the office were thinking giving you a top-row locker, but it is set in stone. I have already tried getting it changed.” Atlas said, finally opening the lid to his food. “Thank you, Atlas.” The appreciation was too clear in my voice. His big, beautiful eyes shot at me in surprise. “I mean, at least you tried. I guess. I could try to find a step stool or something.” I grumbled, pushing my food around the plastic bowl.
“Don’t worry, little bird. You keep feeding us like this, and I don’t think we would have a problem lifting you to your locker.” Axel winked at me, reigniting the swarm of butterflies in my stomach. “You got it.” I smiled, deciding to stop playing with my food. Atlas’s blonde friend was scarce at lunch today, but I ran the bowls to Den’s car before class resumed, so there weren’t any issues like yesterday. The day ended quickly with no more shifting incidents, and I was so happy to get home that I flopped on my bed, falling asleep before my head hit the pillow.