Chapter 1 - The Four Beta Brothers

Thirteen years ago…

“She can’t remember anything?”

“I’m afraid not.”

“What can we do?”

He looked around the hospital room at the eight-year-old girl lying on the bed and shook his head. “Maybe it’s best she doesn’t remember. She can escape this life now. She can leave the horrors behind.”

A little boy tugged on his sleeve. “But daddy, if she forgets, that means she’ll forget all of us too. I don’t want to lose her. Please make her remember!”

The man knelt down so he was eye-level with his son. “What did I tell you about calling me ‘daddy?’ You’re too old to use that term. If you must, call me ‘father.’ And as for Juniper, you’re too young to understand this now, but one day you’ll understand why it’s best if she forgets you and your brothers.”


“Did you hear that she never earned her grades?”

“Oh she earned them—just on her knees.”

“No wonder she has a perfect GPA. No one can get an A in Professor Harrison’s class, but she did.”

“I knew there was something fishy about her! I just never thought she would resort to sleeping with the teacher to keep her perfect image.”

The cafeteria was filled with useless rumors. Every single person I passed whispered the lies that spread like a wildfire. It happened overnight. One moment, everything was normal, and the next, everyone couldn’t stop gossiping about the girl with perfect grades who apparently never truly earned her grades.

Not a single rumor was true.

I knew this because the rumors were about me.

“I wonder if Juniper will still be valedictorian once the school finds out that she’s such a slut.”

I spent countless nights studying in the library after everyone else had left to prepare for Professor Harrison’s final last semester. I pushed myself harder than I ever had before, because I needed to earn the elusive A that he rarely gave.

“I doubt it. Professor Harrison will probably get fired, too.”

“Good riddance.”

I met up with Professor Harrison only to ask him to clarify some notes I had taken. Any meeting that happened occurred in his office with the door open. It never went past anything professional.

“Ugh, I can’t believe I was jealous of someone like Juniper. I always thought she was so smart, but apparently she’s just good at spreading her legs.”

I kept my eyes forward, holding my lunch in my arms. Blood pounded in my head, and my chest tightened, making it impossible to breathe. All eyes were on me. They were waiting for me to say or do something, but I kept walking, needing to get out of the room immediately.

Overnight, my reputation was demolished, and I had no idea why. I always smiled. I worked hard. I helped others when they asked for help. I was a good person and a good student, but now everyone looked at me like I was some sort of pariah.

I had to get away from everyone. I had to figure out how this happened and how to fix it. I caught a glimpse of my best friend, Moira, with a group of her other friends in the corner of the cafeteria and went straight to her.

Moira and I had been best friends since I was twelve-years-old. Her parents took me in when I had no place to go, and she and I played while they worked. We grew up together. She had been my best friend for as long as I could remember, but she was better at making new friends than I was. She was head cheerleader and one of the most popular girls in school. Socially, she was what every girl dreamed of being.

“What do you want?” one of Moira’s friends sneered. She looked me up and down in a way that made me feel exposed, like she knew all of my deepest, darkest secrets. Her name was Ashley, or something like that.

“Moira, can I talk to you?”

Moira sat on top of the table, letting her legs hang over the side. The other girls sat in chairs around her, clearly emphasizing Moira’s status in the group. She continued filing her nails, not bothering to even look at me. This wasn’t like her. “I’m busy.”

She always had time for me. Did she hear the rumor and think it was true? No, she knew me better than that. “Please, I need you.”

“Scram. Your sluttiness is going to rub off on us.” Ashley waved her hands, trying to swat me away like a fly. She never liked me. Her glares had made that obvious. However, Ashley had never been this blatantly rude to me. While she didn’t like me, Moira did, and that was enough to keep her in check.

I looked at Moira, expecting her to say something, but she just continued filing her already perfect nails.

“Moira, please.” My voice cracked. I didn’t like begging, but I needed my best friend. I couldn’t stand the glares and whispers about me, knowing they were all for a reason that wasn’t true.

“I said get out of here,” Ashley snapped.

Moira held up her hand. “No, it’s okay.” She hopped off the table and handed her nail file to Ashley. “I’ll be right back. It shouldn’t take long to take out the trash.”

I grabbed Moira’s arm and dragged her outside of the cafeteria. When I found a small alcove with privacy, I stopped. “What has gotten into you? You’re acting strangely.”

“It’s because I don’t want to be associated with someone who sleeps their way to the top.”

Her words were a knife to my heart. “You know that’s not true. You’ve been my roommate for years. You’ve seen me studying at the library until it closes every night for weeks. How can you believe such a rumor?”

Moira knew me better than anyone else, and the thought of her thinking so poorly of me was too much.

Her mouth curled into an evil grin. “I don’t, of course, but I worked so hard spreading that rumor. I have to keep up appearances.”

It was like she was speaking a foreign language. I knew exactly what she had said, but I couldn’t understand any of it. This had to be a terrible nightmare I would wake up from at any second.

“I don’t understand. You’re my best friend. You wouldn’t do that to me.” I wanted to believe that whole-heartedly, but the smirk etched into her face told me it was a lie. It was all a lie.

“You’re even dumber than I realized. I might be your best friend, but you’re not mine. I don’t even like you. I only stayed your friend because my parents made me. They felt sorry for a poor orphan, omega wolf like you. No status, no parents. You’re not even that pretty, yet you’ve constantly outdone me when it comes to school. I got tired of hearing everyone praise how amazing you were. They couldn’t see what trash you actually were, so I decided to show them the truth.”

Moira’s words were filled with venom, and I felt my body paralyzing with each new thing she said.

“I don’t understand,” I repeated, feeling like a complete fool. I looked back at all of the memories I shared with Moira. We laughed and cried and held each other. She had grown distant during college, but I always assumed it was because our lives were on different paths. She was the alpha’s daughter and cheer captain. Everyone expected her to be luna of our small pack one day.

I, on the other hand, had no status, just like she said. If my parents were still alive, things might have been different, but they died long ago. I was an outcast in our pack, but I thought that if I worked hard, made good grades, I could make up for my lack of family and show everyone I was more than just my status in the pack.

I thought Moira would always be on my side, supporting me, but I was wrong. I had no one on my side.

“I’m sure if you think about it a little longer, you’ll understand. You’re all about studying, instead of actually doing anything. We both know that, which is why you’re not going to bother telling anyone the truth about how this rumor came about.” She looked smug as she looked down at me. We were normally the same height, but she always wore heels that towered over me.

Her eyes were dark with pride. It was as if all she had ever wanted was to see me fall, and for all I knew, that was the case. She started to walk away, but I grabbed her arm. I couldn’t just stand by and let her ruin the reputation I worked so hard to earn.

“I still don’t understand why you did this. We’re friends. There are some things you can’t fake. However, I’m not going to let you ruin me because of whatever grudge you have against me. It’s not just me you’re hurting either. It’s Professor Harrison, too. This isn’t some petty prank. You could ruin lives.”

Moira ripped her arm away from me. “Exactly. People need to know the truth about who you are, and there’s nothing you can do to stop it. You can fight it all you want, but you’re done here, Juniper.”

The click of her heels filled my ears as she stormed away from me to return to her group of friends. She wasn’t the person I thought she was, and it felt like years of friendship had been a lie.

I was smart. I had always been the smartest girl in my classes, but right now I felt like a complete fool. Had I spent all of my life with my nose in a book, making it impossible to see the real world around me?

The world around me grew louder, and the whispers of rumors didn’t feel like whispers. Fingers pointed in my direction as people laughed and sneered. This school was my home. I loved everything about it, from the library, to the trees, to the teachers. It had felt safe and warm for the last three years, but now it felt like a nightmare I would never wake up from.

I walked away from the cafeteria, no longer worried about lunch. My stomach twisted into knots, and there was no way I’d be able to eat. I picked up the pace as I heard my name pass from mouth to mouth. Everyone was talking about me, and there was nothing I could do to stop it.

I thought the farther away from the cafeteria I got, the quieter the rumors would become, but as I passed through the quad, it felt like everyone was watching me with those judging eyes, as if to say, “I always knew she would fail. Her parents were only omegas after all. She was only pretending to be something that she’s not.”

I didn’t know when I started running, but I felt desperate to get away from everything and everyone. My world was crashing all around me, and there was no amount of running that could stop it. I didn’t know what else to do.

I couldn’t go home. Moira was my roommate, so there was no home to go to. I just had to keep running until I found somewhere where the whispers couldn’t reach me.

I turned a corner, and it felt like I had run into a brick wall. My bag flung off my arm, spilling my study notes everywhere. My body bounced off the firm force, and I knew in a matter of seconds I would hit the ground just as hard.

A hand grabbed my forearm, stopping me before I completely lost my balance, and for the first time, I processed what I had run into—more like who.

He was tall, and his dark hair was styled. It looked silky, despite whatever gel was running through it to keep it in such a neat position. Glasses covered his ocean blue eyes, giving him a mature look. That, mixed with the blue button-up shirt with the sleeves rolled to the elbows, made him look like he didn’t belong in the student body. He looked more like a teacher, but he couldn’t have been more than a few years older than me.

“Careful there.” He pulled me upright, and my hand automatically went to his chest to stabilize myself. He looked down at my hand and smirked. “That’s awfully forward of you. I don’t usually get this close to people I’ve just met.”

My face flushed, and I quickly pulled back. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to. I just…” I couldn’t find words. My brain was still spinning from running into him. I would’ve thought he was made out of stone from how hard I hit him, and he didn’t even stumble.

“Relax. I’m just teasing. In all seriousness, are you okay?” He looked me up and down, which only made my cheeks burn more. I liked the way his gaze lit up my body, which was strange. I normally shied away from a man’s gaze.

I nodded. “I’m fine. Did I hurt you?”

He tilted his head, and the corner of his lip pulled up. He was amused by my question. “You don’t look fine. Your clothes are disheveled, and your cheeks are flushed, not just from embarrassment. You were in an awful hurry. You were either running to something or from something.”

My mouth gaped at his observations. I didn’t want to confirm his suggestions, because then he might ask me to go into details. I didn’t recognize this man, which meant he likely didn’t know the rumors that were spreading like a contagious disease. I wanted to retain the moment of anonymity, even if it would be ruined sooner rather than later.

I decided changing the subject was the safest route to take. “You don’t go to this school.”

He raised an eyebrow. “And how could you possibly know that?”

“CUW isn’t a very big school. I know all of the students who go here.” I grew up with a portion of the students from my pack. The rest of the werewolves that attended the school were from all over the country, but this was my fourth year at the school. I knew all of the faces of the students, even if I didn’t know their names.

“Clandestine’s University for Werewolves may be a small school, but there are still hundreds of students here. You couldn’t possibly know the names of all of the students here.” His eyes seemed to glimmer, enjoying the challenge he presented.

“I never said I knew their names, but I do recognize their faces. It’s part of my job as the president of the student council, and I take my job very seriously.” I stood tall, determined to show this man who he was dealing with—the real me.

His smile widened. “You do, don’t you, but have you ever considered the possibility that I’m new here?”

He had me with his question. I hadn’t thought about that. Usually, I was one of the first ones to hear about transfer students, since I was on the student council. However, if the news had come this morning, I wouldn’t have had a chance to learn about it yet.

“Are you a transfer student?” I asked. He still didn’t look like a student to me. His stubble gave him a more mature appearance, which most of the boys on campus didn’t have.

“Maybe. Maybe not. I guess you’ll just have to do your research. Next time we meet, I’d be curious to hear what you come up with.”

“Next time? You seem so sure we’ll meet again.” I felt our meeting coming to a close, but I wasn’t ready for it. There was a chance this man was the last person on campus who hadn’t heard about the horrible rumors, but if we did meet again, my image would be shattered. I wanted to stay in the moment just a little longer.

“As president of the student council, I’d be surprised if I didn’t see you again. Unfortunately, I’m running late, and you were in a hurry yourself, so I should bid you a farewell for now.” He gave me a nod and started walking away.

I grabbed his arm, not sure what I was doing. “Wait. I don’t even know your name.”

He looked down at where I was grabbing him and smiled. “Ethan. And you are?”

“Juniper Johnson.” I instantly felt foolish for including my last name. It was completely unnecessary.

“Well, Juniper Johnson, I look forward to seeing you again. I hope whatever is troubling you works out in your favor.”

“Wait.” I tightened my grip on his arm, afraid to let him leave.

He raised his eyebrows. “Hmm?”

“Can you do me a favor?” I wasn’t ready for this interaction to end.

“A favor? Once again, you are awfully forward for someone who has just met me.” He held my gaze, and his eyes felt just as deep as the ocean. He smiled and teased, but I could tell there was so much more to Ethan.

“Remember me as I am right now. Don’t let others taint your image of me.” I didn’t know if this would do anything. Once Ethan heard the rumors about how I earned my grades, it may not matter how our meeting went at that moment, but I wanted to try at least. It felt like he was my last hope for truth, which made no sense. I talked to him for less than five minutes. I didn’t know him, and he didn’t know me, but it felt like this was my chance at something new.

“All right, Juniper Johnson.” His eyes moved up and down my body, sending chills through my spine. “I will remember you as the disheveled, forward girl, who ran into me in her attempt to run away from or towards something. I will remember your chocolate hair and amber eyes, your plump lips and soft skin. I will remember the way your voice sounds like a siren’s song and your face looks like an angel’s beauty. I will remember you as I see you now, no matter what nasty rumors I may hear.”

My hand dropped from his arm, shocked by his words. He was smooth and poetic, and with a small nod, he walked away from me, but I knew this was only the beginning of something between us.