Twenty years ago…
Constance Tully looked up from the castle of mud she was building when she heard her mother calling. A quick glance at the sky let her know she had stayed out later than she should have and the sun was rapidly setting. She looked at her playmates as dread filled her belly. She was going to be in trouble. Her mother didn’t like it when she got dirty and right now, she was covered in mud.
She, Michael, and Timmy, had found a leaky hose out behind the bed and breakfast where Constance lived, and had decided to dig in the wet earth surrounding it. They had created quite an impressive mud pit, but her mother wouldn’t be impressed.
“Constance Lynn Tully! If you aren’t in here by the time I count to ten, you are in big trouble, missy!”
Both Timmy and Michael shot her wide-eyed looks. Her mother had used the dreaded full name bellow. Nothing said trouble quite like when a parent used the middle name. Shooting her playmates a wince, Connie ran for the backdoor of her house where her mother was waiting with hands on hips and a scowl on her face. Connie tried to shoot past her mother, but was snagged by the back of her shirt. “Don’t even think of tracking that mud through my kitchen, young lady. Get those filthy clothes off right now.”
Connie bent and tried to untie her sneakers but they were so clumped with mud, the laces wouldn’t budge. Her mother huffed out a frustrated breath and knelt before Connie to pull the shoes off her daughter’s feet. “However did you get so filthy? It hasn’t rained all week.”
“The hose out back.” Connie mumbled, as her mother pulled the socks off and grimaced. The white cotton was now brown from the ankle up. Her mother let out a heavy sigh, but was otherwise silent as she helped Connie remove her muddy pants. Margaret Tully then turned her attention to Connie’s hair which was braided in pigtails. The white blonde braids were caked with mud as well and her mother shook her head. “Go on into the bathroom and I’ll draw you a bath.”
Once Connie was again clean from top to bottom and dressed in her favorite pair of Disney Princess pajamas, Margaret Tully ushered her into a chair in the kitchen so that her hair could be brushed. “You start school next week,” Her mother began, “And I’m sure you are going to make plenty of friends.”
Connie hoped so. She enjoyed playing with Michael and Timmy, but they were boys. They had no interest in playing with dolls and dressing them up to look pretty or styling their hair. They wanted to play with trucks or race and wrestle. She enjoyed those things too, but she would like to make friends with another girl who might enjoy tea parties, and walking around in her mother’s high heels and playing dress up. Unfortunately for Connie, Malsum Pass seemed to only have boys.
Her mother smoothed a hand over Connie’s hair and looked deeply into her eyes. “You know you’re special, Connie. You are one of the only females born in the last several years. It’s important that you make the right choices.”
Her father entered the kitchen, gave Connie a warm smile and dropped a kiss on her head before moving to the refrigerator and opening the door. Her mother looked at him, “Who is showing alpha potential in the juveniles?”
David Tully pulled a beer out and twisted off the cap. He shrugged, “Riley Cooper so far.”
Her mother tapped a finger against her pursed lips and let out a thoughtful hum. “He might be a bit too old for our Connie. He’s already transitioned so he may take a mate in as little as seven or eight years.”
Her father choked on his beer and looked at his wife like she was crazy. “Jesus, Maggie. She’s five! Can you at least let her be a kid for a few years before you start pushing a mate on her?”
Her mother drew herself up to her full height and placed her hands on her hips. “Our daughter has the distinction of being the only female wolf born in the pack in years. She’ll have her pick of any male she wants. So she’ll need to pick well. She could mate an alpha, David.”
Connie’s father looked at his wife like he didn’t even know her. He waved a hand and shook his head. “I can’t even believe you right now.” He said as he left the kitchen.
Her mother frowned at the door for a few minutes and then turned back to Connie and smiled. “Conner Pierce.” She said with a smile. “He’s about your age and bound to take after his father. He’s sure to be an alpha.”
Her mother continued talking, something about inviting the Pierces over to dinner and making friends with Sherry Pierce, but Connie was only half listening, her attention snagged by the pink crayon she had thought she had lost but had rolled just under one of the kitchen cabinets. It was her favorite crayon and she was itching to get out of the chair and retrieve it. “Connie, are you listening?”
Connie jumped, startled, and returned her attention to her mother. “It’s important that you make a good impression on Conner Pierce. You must always look pretty and make sure he notices you. Do you understand?”
She didn’t, not really, but she nodded. Her mother hugged her. “Nothing would make me prouder than for you to mate an alpha. Nothing, Connie. No more playing in the mud. You are beautiful. You need to let that beauty shine. The sooner you gain Conner Pierce’s attention, the easier it will be. All right?”
Connie nodded. She wanted to be a good girl. She wanted her mother to be proud, and if that meant looking pretty and making friends with Conner Pierce, she could do that. “All right, Mommy.”