Though he was only seventeen, Paul Lahote had already had a lot of shitty days in his life.
His first was the day in the third grade when there was no car waiting for him in the carpool lane for him at his elementary school in Tacoma. His dad had picked him up from the principal's office an hour later, his eyes red.
"Mom needs some space," his dad had said.
What it turned out Mom had needed, of course, was a divorce. And freedom from the pesky responsibility of being a mother and wife.
Paul's second ultra-shitty day came when he was sixteen and a girl from town who came to take pictures at First Beach on the weekends wrinkled her nose at him when he'd introduced himself and said she knew who his dad was and that he'd probably turn out to be a whiskey-drunk just like him.
He'd nodded like the words meant nothing and turned to go to the woods to punch a tree like he'd been doing a lot lately, but instead he'd turned into a giant wolf. The weird kids from the rez, Jared and Sam, came to explain the nightmare that was happening to him, but all he could think about was the comeback that came too late - that taking pictures of the fucking ocean was about as original as posting sepia-toned selfies to Facebook.
His third shitty day happened three days later, when Sam told him to cut ties with the friends he'd had since he was ten years old and the new kid on a tiny rez, and then Alpha-ordered him when he'd refused.
"We have an obligation, Paul," he'd said. "Believe me, I know exactly how much it sucks, but you would be putting your friends in danger."
So Paul had been forced to tell Zach and Tim that he was going to be hanging out with the same weird kids they'd joked about only weeks before. When they had expressed disbelief, he'd walked away and blocked their numbers on his phone. Then he'd stayed in wolf form for a week until he calmed down enough to turn back.
He was pretty sure his dad didn't even notice.
Paul's fourth, and shittiest of all, day came a little after his seventeenth birthday, when the pack had grown to include Embry the Bastard Elephant in the Room and Jacob "Baby Alpha" Black and Paul was trying to balance his patrols and tribe protector responsibilities with, oh, graduating from fucking high school, and the Baby Alpha was causing all sorts of drama within the pack by angsting all over everyone about his One True Wuv, the vampire lover.
Said True Wuv turned out to be a skinny-assed white girl with frizzy brown hair who cowered beside Jacob. But there was something in her eyes as she bit her lip and stared at them that said that she knew exactly what they were.
Paul lost his shit.
This girl, this pale-skinned bitch who had no idea what they sacrificed, who'd dated leeches, the monsters who triggered their curse, got to know about them, while Paul had to live with his former best friends hating him.
Magical vagina girl hadn't earned that right. It was the most unfair fucking thing Paul had ever heard in a short but very unfair life.
Immediately, his body started that familiar shaking like he was shivering, only he was hot, all over. He prepared to give over to the wolf, and the bitch's eyes darted over to him at his movement. He glared at her, daring her to watch what he would become.
At least, that was what he'd intended to do.
What actually happened was his eyes met hers, and all movement stopped.
The world stopped spinning, his shaking stilled, and for one long second, even his heart stopped.
Imprint, his wolf, never very far, even in human form, said. Mine.
"Jesus fucking Christ!" Paul roared.
He turned his back on her (it was ten times as hard as it should have been, a hundred), leaving his packmates puzzled and staring at him. He couldn't quite remember ever being so angry, making his phase into his wolf nearly instantaneous.
He ignored the girl's (his girl's) soft gasp behind him and started running.