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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21. Chapter 21

“Don’t know when I’ll next be seeing you Dimera’s again, but I wish you the best for the future!” Kris yelled as he turned around and in a shred of clothing later appeared two sandy brown wolves. I didn’t flinch, having long ago grown used to the strange visuals.

Mr. Dimera chuckled, shaking his head and retreated back into the house as the two wolves stalked into the shade of the trees on their way back home.

I glanced at Austin and found him doing the same. “Come on, let’s go inside,” he said.

“Now the guests have gone, I think we should have some fun, what do you say?” Rose asked from behind, gleeful and high-spirited.

To be honest, I’d been eager for a small break from the world which included a long nap and secluding myself from all socialization. Rose looked at me for a word of approval. “Sounds good,” I lied.

“What did you have in mind?” Austin asked as he threw himself onto the couch and made a grab for the remote. Rose wasn’t having that and snatched it out of his hands.

“No TV for a start,” she told him.

Austin frowned. “Give me the remote, mom.”

“We’re going to have some nice time together without technology, now let’s go outside and enjoy the air. It was raining earlier and it smells great outside. I just love the smell of wet pine,” she mumbled to herself as she floated into the kitchen and out the back door into the yard, remote control tucked safely under her arm. Austin hauled himself from the seat with me close behind and we both followed after her.

After a while, the sun was full pelt in the sky. Rose had brought out chilled freshly squeezed lemon juice and I had changed into suitable shorts and bikini top. Megan was coming back today after a short visit home, for no reason other than she could. I wasn’t complaining about the company.

The Dimera’s mostly left me to myself outside and I appreciated the peace. Austin looked like he was cleaning up and Rose was tossing soil in her flower beds.

Not an hour later, Austin stood abruptly and stared through the sliding glass door. “Someone is here,” he said, telling us he’d detected something on that wolf radar of his.

Rose sounded in slight pain as she rose from her knees and mumbled about getting the door. I didn’t move - I didn’t suspect a thing. Nothing seemed out of place or wrong

Austin vanished from sight at the back of his mom and I heard the door on the other side of the house unlatch. Then, harsh yelling.

Alarmed, I sat up and tried to make sense of the situation and decided to remain out the way. The fight, very quickly however, soon came to me.

“Where is she?” A voice demanded.

The sliding door slammed and for a moment feared the glass would shatter.

My eyes met Dante’s and behind him was Kris and his beta Jordan. Dante looked enraged, his chest heaving in anger, not once breaking eye contact with me. I couldn’t look away. “Why are you here still, Kris?” Austin asked from behind as he made his way out after his intruders. He didn’t appear bothered by Dante’s presence.

“They demanded I bring them to you. You know, to throw your patrol wolves off the Bancroft scent,” Kris explained like it was obvious. “Sorry,” he innocently muttered.

“Yeah, whatever. Leave,” Austin commanded, not appearing all that concerned and that probably worried me most.

Dante, on the contrary, still looked livid. He had calmed slightly, however, and leaned causally to the side with a murderous expression etched on his face.

A beach towel was thrust in my direction. “Cover up,” Austin demanded. Dante didn’t like the demand one bit and snapped his head in Austin’s direction to stare him down while I conservatively shrugged it over my shoulders.

Mr. Dimera appeared at the kitchen door and tiredly sighed, “To what do I owe the pleasure?” He muttered as he made his way into his yard with a bored expression.

“I thought I’d give your pack the chance to give up while you’re ahead and hand over Riley before it’s too late. This is – officially – your last chance. My father would rather he just got it over with and kill you all, but I like to play my cards differently. So what is it, Dimera?” Dante asked. “I’m quite eager to actually meet her.”

I curled my nose, my conflicting emotions going haywire. There stood Dante, the son of the Bancroft alpha, in a tight black shirt with the sun glistening on his dirty blonde locks as he crossed his arms defined with muscle over his torso complimented with a taunting smirk. I wanted to slap that look off his face and then kiss it. Then when I peered over at Austin, I saw a dark haired pale boy who looking strong and composed compared to Dante, but seething just below the surface.

I thanked my angels my father had left town with a new werewolf friend for a few days. I wasn’t having him see this.

“I’m going nowhere with you, Dante,” I told him. At least, not quite yet.

A deep rumble emitted from his chest, out of what emotion I wasn’t sure. “Feisty,” he speculated. “Makes for some fun.”

“Hey, hey, hey,” Rose butted in, appearing out of nowhere. “You can’t just barge in here!”

“Watch us,” the man beside Dante whom I hadn’t taken much notice of sneered.

Austin got defensive. “You’ll watch the way you speak to my mother.”

Dante took a step closer and stared Austin down as he said, “And you’ll watch the way you handle my mate. I saw you two together yesterday in the forest. It taken all I had not to take your head off right there...” I took little note of his words and instead my werewolf who loved the idea of being a mate replayed him smooth voice in my head. My human and more rational side, however, couldn’t help but grimace at the thought of being the werewolf girlfriend of Dante Bancroft.

“She doesn’t want you, Dante. The wolf gods may have fated you two together but for her it’ll feel like eternal damnation being with you. She’ll hate every second of it,” Austin told him, making sure he felt as pained as possibly.

Dante raised an eyebrow. “Is that so?” he asked, not believe a word of Austin’s. A few strides later, he was directly opposite me. I peered up to look at him, wondering exactly what he was going to attempt. His hand reached out and laid it gently over my shoulder – the very same part he’d savagely sunk his teeth into last time we met. Like a lightning bolt, emotions and a vague sense of security fell over me. Emotions I couldn’t recall feeling before, and such security that I sank into his hand without a second thought. My eyes closed involuntarily. My wolf, if possible, purred.

They continued arguing but all I was aware of was that one hand. Clouded reality with every touch, every second. This isn’t what Austin and I had – we had a relationship. A very human relationship. Dante and I had something even more complicated that not one word could even describe it; two people who had never met or spoken in a civil conversation but yet this happened. The human side of me still seeped with an anger only slightly overpowered by my werewolf reaction.

I hated to love it.

Austin eyed the two of us warily. Slowly, his face sank. He looked like he’d seen enough.

Dante removed his hand from my shoulder and suddenly felt like I’d crashed back in reality. Any positive thoughts had vaporised. I took a large step back away that Dante ignored.

I took that step away but internally, I was in a fight with my wolf that demanded I move even closer. She wasn’t having me run away now. “Riley is to come back to Bancroft land with us,” Dante stated.

Worry sank in and I began to shrink back. Austin didn’t reply to Dante but instead his face dropped to the ground in thought. I worried for a split second that Austin had given up. He looked defeated. He wouldn’t give up so quickly though, Austin wouldn’t do that, right? He was silent and silence never meant much good.

No one moved a muscle and all that hit my ears was the distraction of Dante’s laboured, angered breath. A smile slipped onto his face as minutes went by singing the song of his success.

I couldn’t just leave this all up to them. “Austin, you’re not going to let him take me...” I paused, “...Are you?”

Austin looked up at me from his feet and passed me a sad smile. Quietly, he said, “Werewolves and humans alike should never mess with the bond of mates.”

I stuttered at first before I could compose myself. “That never stopped anything before,” I muttered. Betrayal and shock sent waves of pain through my heart. What was he doing, what game was he trying to pull now?

He shook his head and stared at the dirt. “You may not realise it because you’re not a natural werewolf, but it’s there. Your mate bond with Dante is beyond reversal,” Austin said. I couldn’t understand it. I’d seen Dante no more than three time in person, and each time he gave me a worse and worse impression of him.

Don’t you dare say that, a voice growled inside my head as it disagreed with the human thought.

“What bond!?” I exclaimed. A lump in my throat began to form.

I channelled all my anger at Dante who seemed to easily ignore it. “You’ll come to your senses as soon as you come with me back to my land – where we can protect you properly,” Dante said. He seemed to remember something and turned to face Mr. Dimera and said, “I’m not having my mate live on the land of a pack that can’t sufficiently control their borders.”

Then that was all it took for my outburst. “Your mate!? I’m nothing to you, Dante, and you’re certainly nothing to me!” I screamed at him. This time, he didn’t ignore me.

Dante voluntarily gave me some space. I wasn’t done yet, though. I turned to Austin who looked away and asked, “And what about you? I’m just being handed over now like some trading card? You can’t just do that!”

“We were never anything, Riley. You belong with Dante. That’s how it works here,” Austin said. I felt like my heart had been smashed on the ground and stood on by everyone here. Austin and his family for not caring and Dante for the unnecessary pain he was responsible for causing. Austin glanced at Dante and said to him, “I’m sorry for the trouble we’ve caused.”

I couldn’t believe the words I was hearing. The Dimera, the second largest pack of North America wouldn’t submit to another so easily. What was this? I felt like nothing more than a political pawn. No one wanted me here, no one wanted me full stop for anything more than the benefits of their war tactics.

I could fully admit Austin and I were nothing more than friends - now I had realised that - but friends didn’t use you like a chess piece on their battlegrounds. That’s where I felt most hurt.

I shook my head defiantly. “No!” I yelled.

A hand snaked over my shoulder, pulling me back into Dante’s hold. “Yes,” Dante muttered.

I ripped away from both of them. “You can’t just do that to me, Austin. I’ll never go with him!” I screeched, pointing an accusing finger at Dante. He seemed unfazed and blinked unaffected by my hand only inches from his face.

Austin shared a silent conversation with his father. Rose looked between them both, confused and worried. “I need to become the better alpha, Riley. Stealing mates is punishable by death,” he replied after breaking his father’s eye contact.

I didn’t like this Austin. This wasn’t him. This wasn’t what he was thinking inside. “But I don’t want a mate,” I replied as I stifled a cry. “I want to stay here. I want to go home.” I reached out for Austin but he pulled away as if I was covered in dirt and carried the plague.

“Is it really worth risking the lives of everyone we know for each other? I have priorities. I’ll find my person. You’ve found yours,” he said with finality. It looked like he was forcing the words. He looked pained and I wanted nothing more than to tell him it would be okay. Not that he would listen and not that he would believe me…

At the same time he was completely right. This conversation, whether we both liked it or not, was true. Was being together worth putting hundreds of innocent pack members on the line? Austin and his family would live as criminals as far as their laws were concerned. Bancroft would declare war and sometime they’d come for the Dimera pack and kill them all, whether Austin and I tried to be together or not, so long as they tried to protect me.

“I’m sorry it’s turning out like this, Riley. Austin needs to become a better alpha and he can’t do that by claiming another’s true mate. It’s wrong,” Mr. Dimera explained as if this involved him.

I could feel accusations boiling my blood. The words coming from Austin’s mouth were not his – they were Mr. Dimera’s. That’s what his father wanted Austin to say. Austin didn’t like this any more than I did.

My anger began to spill over in Mr. Dimera’s direction too. “Austin doesn’t want this; you want this,” I screamed at Mr. Dimera. I felt like a child who wasn’t getting their way but I couldn’t stop. I couldn’t bring myself to try and imagine what everyone was thinking of me.

Mr. Dimera didn’t deny it. “I want what’s best for my pack.”

“And what about your son’s feelings?” I spat back.        

I began to crack his strong resolve. His eyes ignited in fire. “As he has said, you aren’t meant to be together. You are only friends and you can continue to be friends.” Dante snorted at the suggestion.

I felt myself begin to cry. I couldn’t help it. Just a single tear and then suddenly two more. Those tears were followed by several. “So that’s it, then?” I asked.

The father and son shared yet another look. Mr. Dimera was telling him what to do, that I was sure of. That’s what angered me the most. “That’s it,” Austin said. He looked abnormally tired.

For the first time in a while, I wanted to go home. Home sounded good right now. I’d get back and curl up against my mum and cry about stupid boys while she cried because she’d be sleeping alone tonight again. But I couldn’t do that anymore. I was now a Bancroft wolf through ‘mates’. The Dimera’s didn’t want me here now – I now imposed a heavy risk for every second more I remained. None of this would have happened if Austin was Alpha instead of his father.

“Glad you have come to your senses.” Dante grinned, completely unaffected by the tense atmosphere. “I do hope you can learn to at least like me,” he muttered, having to look downwards to see my face.

I was able to ignore Dante completely, grasping at straws trying hopelessly to find a way out. “Rose?” I asked, hoping the woman I’d come to think of as a second mother would help me.

Rose tried to look away. She kept quiet. She chose not to say anything in risk of hurting the situation. Rose didn’t want me to leave, surely?

I could sense Dante’s movement from behind me. He whispered into his friend’s ear before he turned to Mr. Dimera. “We must get going, but we’ll be back tomorrow night for Riley at Wolf Lake. Make sure you’re there by sun-down... Or I’ll have to get you myself.”

My alarmed facials probably unnerved him because he was quick to explain, “Only for a few days, then I’ll send you home myself.” He tried to smile reassuringly, but it done nothing to help.

Without much more to be said, Dante nudged his friend and they began to make their way home. Their bodies vanished in a split second right after they morphed into black wolves. The trees rustled around them for a few moments, and then it stopped.

Mr. Dimera hooked his arm with his wife’s and led her back inside without checking to see if I was alright. Austin followed them both but at least turned back to see me fall into the sun chair. I grabbed my sunglasses to recover some of my pride and cover my tears. “I didn’t want it to turn out like this,” Austin muttered. He disappeared inside like his parents.

***

Megan found my sitting outside a few hours later as she yelled, “I can’t believe how much I’ve missed you – and it’s only been a few days!”

A girl was trailing behind her and soon we were both introduced. She was a small tanned girl with extremely long brown hair; her name was Simone and apparently had been good friends with Megan for years. She was a werewolf too, but she was a Touren wolf – specifically Kris’s niece. 

For a while we talked about life in the Touren pack and what it was like. While I had very little to compare it to, it was still interesting. It proved to be a good distraction.

Being with the two of them reminded me that some things were still nice. Things were looking great for so many others around me and if my own life wasn’t something to smile about, then theirs surely was. I found myself laughing like I hadn’t all week.

“So where has everyone got to?” Megan asked.

I shrugged like I didn’t know, but I knew already that Austin and his dad would be in their study together and Rose was more than likely dotting around the house as if it weren’t already in perfect order. “No idea,” I replied.

Megan shared a knowing look with Simone. “Uh-oh, what happened?” She giggled.

I sighed and ran my hands through my hair. “I’d rather not talk about it...” I trailed off. My ears perked curiously at the sound of people approaching from inside the house.

Austin appeared from the door with a friend of his. They pushed each other playfully, both laughing and smiling and acting as if nothing had happened a few hours ago. I supposed I was doing the same. I watched them carefully despite the setting sun behind then that risked blinding me.

“It wasn’t like that, man,” his friend laughed and shoved Austin one final time into the middle of the patio. Austin quickly regained his balance and straightened his posture and glanced in our direction. Something caught his eye mid-turn, and then suddenly his eyes fixated on Simone.

He completely ignored his friend who tried to catch his attention and took a step closer to the small group of us at the other end of the yard.

Simone looked surprised. “Who’s our guest?” Austin asked curiously.

Megan maybe didn’t see what I saw but nonchalantly replied, “Oh, Rose said I could bring a friend. This is Simone - she’s a niece of Touren.”

Austin didn’t reply. He gazed at Simone like a puzzle that once solved would hold answers to his questions.

Simone broke the contact and ran a hand over her head. “This isn’t happening...” She said.

“What isn’t happening?” Megan asked innocently.

It suddenly hit me like someone had poured ice cold water over my entire body. It was obvious. Of course it was. I knew this reaction. “They’re mates,” I said. Austin either didn’t care about how I was feeling with this new development or didn’t have room to think about anything else. Jealousy began to rear its head when it had no right to.

Megan peered at me from the corner of my eye, gauging my reaction. While Austin and I had never been strictly together, she wasn’t stupid to assume there was nothing there.

Austin took a few steps closer as I looked away in thought. I had no right to be angry or jealous. “Do you want to talk?” he asked her gently.

The timing couldn’t have been any more perfect. He couldn’t be sad about me leaving even if he tried now. For how little I knew about werewolves and how they worked, I at least had this one up on Austin. I knew how he was feeling, and I knew it’d be time ten on him as a true-born werewolf. This was like instant-love. He was one with his wolf that told him how much he needed a mate.

No going back, I thought. I couldn’t change this now even if I tried. Austin had now found his mate, there was no chance I could get away from Dante now.

Nothing was going to way I wanted it.

There was now only one place I could go now, which lead me up off my seat and backing away as fast as I could like a pathetic reject.

I couldn’t stay here now Austin had found a mate. Forget how awkward it’d be, but Simone seemed like a great girl. She seemed deserving of the perfect boyfriend without me hanging about. I could see what I had to do now. I didn’t have to force myself. I didn’t have to think.

They were out of my sight as I ran off and no one called after me. I felt pathetic. Immature. But none of that felt worse than finally realising hanging around the Dimera’s was a lost cause.

Unwanted.

I already knew where my feet were taking me. Wolf Lake was a short distance from the Dimera house. That’s where Dante had organised with the Dimera’s to hand me over tomorrow night. If Dante had his wits about him, he’d be waiting there right now too. I’d hand myself over without them like the political pawn they wanted me to be, except now I wasn’t going to dance to their tune.

A clap of thunder burst my eardrums and ignited the sky in a flash as I entered the clearing in the forest. The lake looked as magical as it usually did except today I didn’t have the heart to sit and stare at it in wonder. I threw myself onto the wet ground by the lake in mental pain.

On the other side of the clearing there was the crunch of leaves that only my heightened werewolf sense were able to pick up. I wished it were a wolf - not a werewolf – an actual wolf – one without the human morals that could maul me to death and save me the embarrassment of living life any longer.

Sitting up, I looked around the green grass, shrubs and trees. There was not a person in sight. I knew someone was there though. He had to be here.

“Dante!” I screamed at the top of my lungs. “Get out here now!”

Another thunder clap.

The grinning fool came sauntering out from the shadows where I’d heard the crunch a short twenty meters away. He was pulling a shirt over his bare torso, probably only now returning to human form. His bare feet crunched the grass upon approach. “You called,” he said, looking extremely pleased with himself.

I scrambled to my feet and quickly squared up to make sure he knew I wasn’t to be pushed around. We looked quite the pair out at night dressed ready for the beach, with myself wearing only a tank top and shorts over the swimsuit I had worn earlier that day. “If this is what it has to come to, then I’m not going to fight. I’m going with you,” I said.

He couldn’t tell me no, I was confident he wouldn’t refuse.

If he hadn’t looking smug a second ago, he sure did now. “Why the sudden change of heart, Riles?” He asked as if he didn’t know.

I was not giving him the satisfaction of telling him the story and letting him watch as I’d grow more and more upset. “I’m just doing what’s right,” I explained. “No matter how much I hate it.”

 

 

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