Wolves of Mateo

After a prank gone wrong, Riley is left abandoned in the forest with snapping wolves approaching her from across Lake Mateo. She wakes up in the Dimera house but soon comes to learn their act of hospitality wasn't just out of kindness, but out of something much deeper and terrifying - to a mere human anyway. Werewolves live among us and Riley finds herself between two of the most powerful werewolves in Wyoming. While her heart is being torn in two, her head is telling her to do the right thing - but it's always easier said than done. Fighting in a whole new world, she must overcome the danger and settle in where she now truly belongs. Werewolf hunters, Mate claims, Alpha rivalry, and Pack wars... Welcome to Mateo, home of the Wolves. *EDITED VERSION NOW AVAILABLE ON AMAZON, PUBLISHED BY MOVELLAS http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B01GFUK45O *

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17. Chapter 17

I sat beside Austin as I flicked through the channels of the TV. Rose kept walking around the house filled with worry as strangers – or at least to me – filtered in and out of the house to take a look upstairs where my father and a few others were.

Knowing he was only upstairs was comforting; knowing what he was going through was not. I hadn’t dared see him since the forest.

Austin sat beside me and I realised I hadn’t spoken much to him at all that day. It was awkward. He’d kissed me – only gently – before walking off as if nothing strange had happened. We hadn’t touched the subject since.

Austin reached for the remote and suddenly switched the TV off. The silence screamed at me to run. “This is just too awkward,” he said.

I nodded in agreement.

“Let’s just forget last night. It was the full moon. Animal instincts were on a high and I wouldn’t have done that normally. We’re friends,” Austin said rather bluntly and paused as his mom entered but left a few seconds later, not willing to share the conversation with her. “I didn’t mean anything by it,” he finally said. That seemed to hurt more than him acting awkward about it.

“You can’t tell your dad,” is all I replied. If his father found out...

Austin smirked. “Of course I wouldn’t. What do you think we spend our time talking about? Certainly not who I’ve kissed.”

Suddenly I had my own urges to kiss him again. I couldn’t bring myself to admit any feelings for Austin, but I still wanted to. We were friends, he said, but friends didn’t have thoughts like this. “We barely kissed,” I muttered.

“There’s always time later,” he said. Austin coughed a little over his own words and tried to correct himself like he didn’t mean it. “Sorry. The effects of the moon haven’t quite worn off yet.”

He didn’t act like he was attracted to me, I thought… But then he said stuff like this and then I didn’t know what quite to think.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “I hate this awkward silence too.”

Austin leaned back in his seat and stared up at the ceiling. “So we’re cool now?” He asked.

I nodded slowly.

Austin switched the TV on and I could feel the same awkwardness seep back. We both knew that’d happen, but at least we’d acknowledged what’d happened and what we’d do now. We would be fine.

He’d only made my attraction worse.

Rose came pacing into the room again nudging us both out of our thoughts and whizzed towards the drawn curtain and peeked outside. Her expression transformed. “Riley...” she suddenly said, “Your mom’s here.”

***

“Tea?” Rose offered. My mother shook her head and tried to give Rose a smile but miserably failed. I could see the tears in her eyes. I couldn’t figure out why she was upset.

Rose sat beside my mother. Austin had long ago turned off the TV and the house seems eerily silent. I became concerned my dad would begin to shout and my mom would hear. Would she recognise the voice? “Are you ok?” asked Rose.

It seemed in that very moment she let go of her emotions and everything seemed to come spilling over. Finally, she admitted the reason for her visit. “Riley, your father has gone missing,” she wept. Rose looked between me and Austin and made sure we knew to be careful about what we said. I wondered what my mom would think if she knew dad was only just upstairs.

When I didn’t say anything, my mother looked up to study my face. I tried to feign shock. “Doctors think he left last night – they have no idea where he went. There was a problem with the CCTV,” She explained as she began to cry again. “It’s a police matter now. They think it’s serious. He couldn’t have moved in his condition.” My mom furiously wiped tears from her eyes and screwed her eyebrows together in thought. “They think it might be a form of kidnapping.”

“He was in no state to move,” I said as I tried my best to act as if I was as clueless as she was.

“Exactly my point!” My mom exclaimed. Rose pulled my mom into a hug. There were severe black bags under her eyes and her hair was a mess. “I’m so worried for him and I didn’t know if you already knew and everything is just falling apart...” she cried.

I looked at Austin for help. He peered back at me, worried and uneasy.

“Maybe he did just wake up though,” I began to say, “maybe he upped and left and the drugs in his system clouded his judgement and -,” I cut myself sort. And what? He felt like he needed to stretch his legs? “Maybe he was worried about the hospital bill? Speaking of bill, can you even afford to keep him in hospital?” I tried my best to ease her into a softer subject.

She sniffled a bit. “The insurance company are covering it.”

“He’ll come back soon, I’m sure of it. We’ll take care of Riley for however long you need,” Rose told my mom with a smile as she continued to rub mom’s back.

“I feel so bad for putting her into your care on such short notice – and for so long, too!” My mom said, which set off on a whole new round of tears and I noted how emotional she was being. “Tell me, do you need any money to help with things?”

Rose waved her hand in an ‘it’s-not-a-problem’ gesture. “You’re both welcome. It’s almost as if she’s part of the family now.”

I might as well be, I thought. After my dad becoming werewolf I had even stronger links to the Dimera’s than I had before. Even if he didn’t become a werewolf, I’d still be forced to stay. I knew far too much.

I didn’t know what I was doing. What I wanted. Did I want to stay or did I want to go? I sounded like an indecisive toddler unable to make their own decisions. I wanted someone to do that for me and make it all better.

“I can’t even imagine how hard it’s been. I’m so sorry, Riley,” My mom tried to say for the first time in this whole ordeal. As long as she knew, I thought. She raised both arms in front of me and welcomed me into a strong hug. I didn’t have to think to get up and hug her back.

I loved the feel of her warmth and I couldn’t believe how much I’d missed it, how I’d missed being with her even though it’d been only three weeks. It seemed longer. “Mom, I’ve missed you.”

She choked a bit on her tears. “I’ve missed you too, sweetie.” When was the last time I’d seen mom cry? Her wet tears streaming down her face looking like nothing more than drips from wet hair after she got out from the shower.

I felt myself choking up as well. I was almost sure my face was going red with trying to hold them in.

Rose tried to spark conversation but it was a lost cause as it was washed away by both our crying and comforting words.

I didn’t even care that I was in front of the Dimera’s who were probably judging us and thinking god knows what about us. As I stared at my mother who stared as me back, all I could see was her and my worries for what might happen next.

Will we as a family ever be able to go back to normal? I doubted it. I couldn’t even begin to imagine what my dad would have to deal with. Will my dad ever be able to return to my mother, will he ever be able to act the same and be the same person? I had thoughts like that.

While my mom cried for my father and how much she missed me, I cried for complete different reasons and what made me cry more is that she was completely unaware.

Austin and Rose looked at us both apologetically. 

***

Above us there was a manly scream. My concerned but red and still puffy eyes hovered over to my mom – worried she was suspicious. I was almost sure that was my father’s shout.

“Excuse the noise. When we first moved in here we installed a gym – our mistake was placing it on the top floor. They make hell of a noise up there,” Rose made excuses effortlessly as if she’d done it thousands of times. She fobbed my mom with some excuse to get her out the room and my mom followed gladly with half a dozen tissues in her hand.

I stood from my seat and I immediately made my way for the stairs when they were out of sight.

Austin got up slowly from behind. “Don’t go just yet,” he said, “let’s just relax and fix you up a little.” I heard him walk towards me and he said, “You look a mess, Riley.”

“Gee, thanks. I’ve just spent the last half an hour crying as if I’ve lost someone – which may I point out I might as well have. Of course I’m not going to look perfect.” Austin didn’t respond and I thought for a second I was being a little too snappy. “I bet my eyes are all red and puffy. I get puffy cheeks when I cry – do I have puffy cheeks?” I poked at them as if to prove my point.

Austin laughed. At least we could still find the humour. He replied, “It’s not that bad. I just meant lets relax.”

“I don’t feel like I can...” I admitted. There was too much to be done.

“Let's just sit down, then,” Austin said as he grabbed a hold of my elbow and even though the physical contact was at a minimum I still somehow managed to extract some absurd girly feelings from it. I smiled shyly.

He sat me down on the seat beside him. “Everything will turn out fine,” he explained, “After the two full moons your father can become a member of our pack, he can safely go back home, and better yet – hopefully by then Bancroft will have laid off or the fight will be over. I can feel it.”

I looked at him as if he was a hopeful child wishing the impossible. “The fight between Bancroft and Dimera has gone on since your granddad created the Dimera pack – how long ago was that? 50, maybe 60 years? What makes you think it’ll all stop now?”

Austin looked around the room as if it would hold the answer to his problems. His black hair fell into his eyes obscuring his search for the answer and end to the fight. “Everything has to come to an end,” He finally said, feeding me the answer with a hopeful glint in his eyes.

I remained sceptical and replied, “But who’s to say the end will be soon and not in another 50 years?”

“Can’t I dream?” he muttered, “This war has gone on for too long. Strictly speaking the Dimera pack shouldn’t exist – and the Bancroft should have been punished as well. One of the werewolf laws – never turn wolves at random with the sole purpose of creating a new pack. Although we were turned as pack members for future use, we still formed a pack and I’d like to argue that Bancroft is guilty of that crime.” Austin continued to rant and I felt his pent up anger erupt.

“Strictly speaking, Austin, you are guilty of numerous crimes against werewolf laws as well. You told me about werewolves and you are now pretending I’m your mate,” I accused whilst pretending to be disgusted. I smiled just to make sure he knew I wasn’t serious.

He shoved me gently with his own shoulder and looked down at me.

Now felt like the perfect time to ask the question I’d had on my mind for a good while now. “Tell me about Bianca,” I suddenly said.

Austin blinked for longer than necessary and leaned back, surprised at the sudden subject change. He bounced back fast enough and quite simply said, “Her dad’s a werewolf.”

Confusion is all that registered in my brain as I recalled her father – the large balding man with a scar on his face who always carried a gun on his belt. Gary. “He can’t be,” I quickly replied.

“He can be and he is. He used to be a Dimera wolf,” Austin explained.

 “What happened?” I asked, too scared to push for answers, scared he’d shut the answers away again but also afraid I’d not like what I’d hear.

Austin stretched his arms above his head and he expanded on his previous answer, saying, “Information from our pack was getting out to Bancroft. We needed to find out who was the link. Turns out it was Gary – Bianca’s dad. My dad was the new alpha at the time and kicked him out almost immediately.” I was about to ask more questions but Austin continued on his own. “Gary completed the two full moons unharmed and went to Bancroft territory. He was rejected by their current alpha and he became a permanent rogue. He met Bianca’s mother and she was born.” I was about to ask why they didn’t just kill him then if he was so much trouble, but realised those laws were there for a reason. Those laws would stop them in their tracks and he could run havoc.

“Is Bianca a werewolf?” I then asked, fearing the reply.

“No,” Austin said. Relief washed over me. “Because the mother is human there’s a 50/50 chance. Bianca would be too. Bianca’s mother died in child birth, though, so Bianca had been raised knowing all about us. She hates the werewolf race, she always has done. Turns out, though, her father hadn’t told her he used to belong to the Dimera pack until a few days after you came to stay with us.  That would explain the sudden change in attitude towards me,” Austin explained. I agreed silently – the sudden change in attitude had been strange if she really had known about Austin all this time. She must have found something out between then and now.

“Why do you hate Gary so much, Austin?” I questioned. The day at the grocery store made it obvious.

He appeared reluctant to say more. I wouldn’t know why. “Look, Riley, you don’t have to trouble yourself with knowing this. Sometimes knowing less is best.”

I shook my head defiantly. “I want to know,” I said. I had a right to know.

Austin didn’t argue any further like he knew I wouldn’t give up and said, “Gary’s own little twisted way to spite us and all other werewolves is to go hunting with humans so he can shoot us down and we can’t attack because he’s surrounded by humans – another werewolf law – never kill in front of humans. He’s shot and killed at least 3 Dimera’s. He’s broken werewolf law. Someday he’s going to spill our secret and it’s going to be his head on the line. Once he commits a crime that packs other than this one is interested in pursuing, then he’ll be brought to justice.”

“And Bianca?” I urged him to continue.

Austin seemed tired of this conversation, but continued anyway. “She’s got little involvement. We’ve seen her a few times on the hunting trips, though, but not often.” Austin got to his feet just then and made his way towards the base of the stairs, making sure I couldn’t ask anything else.

“She’s always acted like she hated the forest. Too scared to go inside,” I mumbled but Austin didn’t seem to hear me.

I suddenly wanted to see Bianca now. I had an abundance of questions to ask to make sure. With my head buzzing in thought, I got up and followed after Austin.

I knew Austin was taking me to my dad as we set on up the steps. We reached the top of the stairs and suddenly a wave of nerves rolled over me. “You might not like what you see,” Austin warned before he opened the door.

I took a step forward to look inside. I didn’t know what I expected – maybe bloodied walls and shredded furniture. My expectation of my dad covered in blood, restricted by chains to a post on the wall was promptly dismissed when I saw him sat there on a bed, looking admittedly rough, with two men on either side of him acting as guards.

He hadn’t spotted me yet. “Dad?” I called out. Austin stepped back to let me past.

He slowly looked up. The two men backed off to give my dad space. His eyebrows screwed together in confusion and a wave of guilt rolled over me. “Riley?” He asked, sounding amazed. “What are you doing here?”

“You’re at the Dimera’s house,” I quietly explained, unsure how much he knew, “you know the Dimera’s, don’t you?” I still felt emotional and raw from having met my mother again for the first time in ages.

He mustn’t have known, because he visibly relaxed. “What’s going on, Riley?” He questioned.

I didn’t want to tell him. Anyone but me. “Dad, are you ok?”

“Don’t brush off my question, Riley. Answer me!” He rose to his feet and the two men on either side zoned in again to catch him in case he lashed.

Austin approached my side and said quietly, “Remember, Riley, it’s just been a full moon. He won’t be fully in control yet.”

My father’s head tilted to the side in confusion. He began to bat his head about like a mad man and I felt so helpless watching him. “He’ll feel like there’s voices in his head. It’s his wolf’s persona talking with him,” Austin explained. “He probably thinks he’s crazy.”

I watched as he clawed at his head and his face became red. I couldn’t stand and watch. “Dad, don’t hurt yourself!” My heart broke for him.

Dad stopped what he was doing suddenly when I put an arm around him. “It hurts so badly,” he said.

I held him closer as I replied, “Do you remember anything from last night?”

He shook his head.

I realised all that time spent in hospital unconscious wouldn’t have done any good. He hadn’t had time to recover. Did he even remember who he was? “What do you remember?” I asked him.

He was quiet as he searched his memories. “Preparing for a hunting trip...” He suddenly said.

“Anything else?” I prompted.

“No, why?” He was blissfully unaware to the nightmare he’d endured and I was almost glad because if he remembered the pain he was in, the pain I saw on his face that terrified me…

I hugged him tightly. “I’ve missed you so much, dad.”

As if it was just me and him, he seemed to forget he was just shrieking to be let go just a few minutes ago and hugged me back. “Where did I go?” He laughed.

I peered behind my shoulder at Austin to gauge his reaction. He didn’t try to signal anything, leaving this completely down to me.

I was almost concerned at my dad’s lack of fear over waking up in a random room when the only recent thing he remembered was preparing to go hunting. Maybe he really had gone mad.

“Dad, you were attacked by a wolf and you were in a coma for nearly a month,” I said knowing it was best to get it over with at once.

All was quiet as he responded with a single blink, not able to understand what I said. “Wolves?” he repeated quietly.

“Do ‘wolves’ remind you of anything?” I hoped he already know what I was getting at, I didn’t want to be the one to tell him every detail.

His eyes were glazed over as he thought about it. In seconds he was back, but his eyes read fear. His expression was almost heart-breaking. All he could say was, “What the hell happened last night?”

 

 

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