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 *
The Wolves of Mateo - Episode 121:00 min.
The Wolves of Mateo - Episode 216:00 min.
The Wolves of Mateo - Episode 319:00 min.
The Wolves of Mateo - Episode 418:00 min.
The Wolves of Mateo - Episode 516:00 min.
The Wolves of Mateo - Episode 619:00 min.

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23. Chapter 23

Touren land wasn’t much different from Dimera or Bancroft – they had trees, a lot of them – and that was the only thing I noticed. As soon as we stepped over an invisible boundary into their land, Dante immediately grimaced. He said he could smell Touren, but noted it wasn’t as bad as usual. But I, on the other hand, thought the land smelt like pines; the same as every other pack territory I’d set foot in. I didn’t have such a good reign over my senses yet.

Dante was tense with his shoulders hunched. He kept grumbling about how he should have sent some of his men instead but I’d retorted with a comment about if he was truly an alpha, he had to man up and do this himself. That shut him up for a while.

We walked closer to a house in the distance, bricked and nestled between heavy trees. 

As we got a better view of the house, we noticed a few people lingering outside and around a sheet. It was fairly obvious what was under it, their forms casting a clear imprint. Dante didn’t look the least bit concerned, despite his reaction when he first heard the news. He didn’t let Touren know how bad this news was for his pack.

Kris’ figure came into view. He called out to us, “Glad you could make it on short notice. Now how do you want to deal with this?” Kris took his time in strolling towards us without a care in the world. Of course he didn’t care – this wasn’t his problem.

Dante nodded a short greeting. “We need to be out of here as soon as we can. No point lingering and keeping your pack on edge,” Dante noted as he peered around himself. I followed his lead and looked round me, noticing a dozen or so others watching us carefully that I hadn’t noticed before.

Kris shrugged. Laid back like always. “Whatever works best. I don’t care,” Kris said as he led the way towards the side of the house, directly towards the sheets with body shaped lumps lying under them.

“So how did they die?” Dante bluntly asked as he crouched down to the sheet and pulled it away from their faces revealing all three men.

Kris shrugged. “Really, I have no idea.” Dante didn’t like that answer.

“So you’re saying they appear to look completely healthy and they just dropped dead?” Dante asked, growing frustrated.

Kris laughed at Dante’s reaction. I thought for a second that perhaps Kris’ laughter was more a facade. “Well, that’s exactly what I’m saying. No wounds, no discolouration. When we found them their bodies were on our land but we hadn’t detected their smell until a wolf was doing their rounds. We did, however, smell a rogue and I wouldn’t think the rogue is from your pack, and it’s neither of these three…” Kris got down to business with his observations that confused both Dante and I even more.

Dante cleared his throat and covered the dead men on the ground. “I wouldn’t let a rogue into my pack, no way. Not ever. So you’re saying a rogue managed to kill three of my pack members on your land?” Dante growled. He got up from his crouch and appeared to square up at Kris ready to attack.

“Most likely,” Kris replied flatly.

Dante took a threatening step closer. I moved in and tried my best to position myself to deflect the situation should it break into something violent. Kris’ men seemed to be doing the same.

“And why, Kris, did you choose to ignore the rogue scent until it was too late?” Rage flowed through him the very same way blood pumped round his body. His face became red and his expression darkened.

I nudged Dante in the ribs and said, “Please, don’t turn this into a fight. Remember what you’re here for.”

Dante rubbed his nose discreetly and gave me the tiniest of appreciative smiles.

Kris jumped to defend himself and replied, “I didn’t ignore it. We didn’t pick up any scents. None at all until we got very close to the scene. It tells me these rogues and your own wolves were on our land for no longer than a few minutes, not long enough to alert us while they were still on our territory. But there’s more to it than just that, Bancroft. Your men were either dead before they got here, or killed just minutes after which is why their scent didn’t reach us sooner. Or something else is at play but that’s not our problem is it?” I tossed the explanation around internally and tried to make sense of it. So whoever killed them done it in such a short amount of time that they left very little of their scent?

“And why should I believe you? Who’s to say you didn’t kill them for trespassing?” Dante questioned, overflowing with suspicion.

Kris smiled like he had nothing to hide. “About that, please refrain your wolves from entering my territory. We’re not as much of a pushover as other packs may think.”

“My wolves know their boundaries. They wouldn’t have entered unless under very exceptional circumstances,” Dante told Kris as if he spoke to someone stupid.

“Take a smell of their bodies,” Kris welcomed, “All I can smell is rogue, it’s like the smell is actually coming off them.”

Dante did. He crouched down to get a smell of the corpses that presumably had dulled in scent. He inhaled deeply and in an instant began to splutter, red faced and disgusted. “Definitely rogue,” he said, taking a large step back.

Kris tilted his head in mock confusion and said, “But these are yours wolves, no?”

Dante glanced at the sheet before saying, “I know their names, age, and family members for all three. Born into Bancroft and sworn their life to my father and me. They can’t be rogue.”

“Well it’s obvious they are. If that smell doesn’t give it away, I don’t know what will. What’s confusing me is how did they die? And why are their scents so dull and weak? Their bodies must have been dumped, no question about it. The wolves themselves must have formed an alliance and left your pack together.” Kris narrowed his eyes at Dante accusingly. “How have you been treating your wolves these days, Dante?”

Dante shook his head in denial. He took a step past the wolves from Touren and pulled the sheet off the still clothed men entirely to reveal their full bodies. “They didn’t shift – look, they still have clothes. They left my pack, and they were killed and dumped on your land. Another rogue must have done it, I don’t smell any scent of another pack,” Dante concluded.

“The only rogues around here...” I chose not to continue, after all the trouble a mouth like mine had gotten me into.

Dante looked at me curiously. “The only rogues around here? There aren’t any,” Dante said.

I shook my head. “On Dimera territory there is a male rogue who has a human daughter. They hold a grudge against Dimera. If all rogue scents smell the same, the only rogues likely to have done this, would be him.” I looked at Kris for confirmation and continued, saying, “You said yourself that you caught them both on the outskirts of your land a few weeks back.”

Dante immediately saw red and looked lividly at Kris. Kris nervously wrung his hands as if he’d been caught doing something criminal. “It’s your obligation to inform all other packs if there’s a breach of security. You hadn’t informed Bancroft but you chose to tell Dimera?” Dante fumed.

“I wouldn’t have said anything if it weren’t to watch the Dimera’s squirm,” Kris explained. “I’m not amused, though, that my niece is now the future alpha female. Not happy at all. I suppose you have nothing to worry about now, huh, Riley?” He directed his comment at me and I forced myself to ignore it.

Dante growled threateningly. “Back off,” he said.

“Don’t get all possessive, Mr. Alpha,” Kris teased while raising his hands in surrender.

I wasn’t in the mood to laugh or joke though, not when there were three dead bodies in front of me and suddenly all I could think of was Dimera – no thanks to Kris.

Kris wasn’t affected by the atmosphere at all and continued to speak, saying, “We really can’t tell you any more about the circumstances, we don’t know any more than what you see. So, how do you want to transport the bodies?”

***

Some of Kris’ men had literally put the dead bodies over their shoulders and then another trek of walking commenced as Dante took off into the forest and back onto his land. I found it all rather morbid and tried to keep my eyes away from the scene around me.

Dante began sniffing the air some time later. “We’re on Bancroft land now,” Dante confirmed. Kris’ men were quick to place the bodies neatly on the ground before walking back the way they came, not a single word from any of them. 

The trees closed in around me as Dante stood over the bodies and stared. Seeing their cold lifeless corpses didn’t seem to bother me, they looked cold and I could convince myself they were only sleeping.

“What next?” I asked, running my hands up and down my arms to keep warm.

“We burn the bodies. There’s no way without a doctor that we’ll find out how they died. We don’t let doctors into our community,” Dante muttered as he began to get working collection a dozen or so branches in his arms.

My head snapped immediately in his direction. I took a calming breath of pine to try and relax and said, “What, why? Here? Someone will see the smoke.”

“Werewolf blood is highly flammable, it’ll go up in a puff of smoke and down within ten minutes maximum. We burn the bodies so no doctor can get a hold our bodies and spot the difference between us and humans. Doctors would hit it big if they were the ones to discover werewolf secrets,” he explained. It was then I realised just how much Dante and alphas alike had to do for their packs. They were responsible for not only their pack but if something someone did under their protection was against the law, they often take the fall for it. I had a new sort of admiration not only for Dante but every other Alpha too.

I had to remind myself then that Dante wasn’t alpha. He was the alpha’s son. It was a situation very similar to Dimera.

Dante pulled a lighter from his pocket and held a large branch in his other hands. “Wait, what about the families?”

Dante shook his head. “Families in the werewolf community never get to see their dead relatives, or at least in my pack. We take a piece of evidence from each body to prove we’ve seen and confirmed their death. We return ashes, however,” Dante lit the twig and held it like a torch before continuing, “However, one has no family and the other two carry no possessions apart from the clothing on their backs.”

Dante leaned down and grabbed at their shirts and using his inhumane strength tore the shirt so he could take a fragment from two of them. “Did you know them well?” I asked.

Dante had a solemn expression. I had no doubt he knew them to an extent. Nothing was going in his favour right now and I knew everything would be feeling useless. He ignored my question but his silence spoke answers. He knew them and he knew them well. And I felt for him.

He handed me silently the two strips of cloth before he lowered the torch to the three exposed bodies. “See you soon, guys,” he said as if only saying goodbye for the weekend.

The flame touched the first body, the shirt immediately lit in a puff of smoke and spread like wildfire. I took a sharp step back so I was as far away as possible and out of the smoke.

“Dante, you don’t want to be around to see this,” I told him, hoping he’d leave and collect whatever ashes remained later.

Dante shook his head. “No, I want to be here. It’s my duty to be here. They may be rogues in death because they left the Bancroft pack, but not yesterday they were my brothers.”

I risked a step closer as the smell of burning flesh attacked my nose. I put a hand over my face as I gagged violently. “It’s your father’s duty to be here. You have no duty, not yet,” I said.

Dante turned to look at me, his dirty blonde swept into his eyes but I still saw the endless pit of worry sitting right there on the surface.

“Trust me, you’ll survive,” I said.

“I might survive, but my entire pack as it stands now will not,” he pessimistically replied. “I don’t know why they left my pack or what drove them to do it. Had it been planned long? What were they going to do?”

I tugged Dante’s elbow, hoping we could both leave and not have to see any more.

“Stop it,” I told him. “Now let’s go, you can return later.” Best for both of us, I thought. Dante didn’t want to see this, and I certainly didn’t either.

***

“I’m going home. Please,” I said to Dante later that day. Unlike Austin and the Dimera’s, Dante hadn’t put up a fight. He’d told me he’d take me home if he got to see me on a regular basis.

As he drove me in that direction, I had an excitement to see my mother and just forget the world.

I looked forward to forgetting the werewolves the most.

Dante collected the ashes sometime later after we left the scene. Over and done with in less than half an hour. I met his family in between too, but they barely spoke to me and seemed less inviting than the previous families I’d met but I couldn’t expect them to be as perfect as Rose.

Dante was silent as he drove down the road and it gave me more time to think.

Over this past month I had developed a great ability to quickly create lies and cover-ups, and I knew I’d need that for meeting my mother today. She’s wonder what’d I’d been up to, why was I suddenly home, what was up with me lately. I couldn’t tell her even a hint of the truth. I’d have to think on my feet.

Because it was a flash decision, I’d tell her it was because the Dimera’s wanted me to go home – as that’s who I’d tell her I was staying with – and I really missed her cooking. She’d like the sound of that.

“Last stop, the Kerr home,” Dante chimed. Looking out the window, I couldn’t see my house. He had thoughtfully dropped me off around the corner to avoid my mom seeing us.

“Thanks. For everything,” I muttered as I awkwardly unbuckled my seatbelt.

Dante pulled the keys from the ignition. “Thank you for being there.”

He looked much better than he had earlier. Colour to the cheeks and a smile to his face. “No problem,” he replied. As we sat in silence I hoped, conflictingly with other thoughts, for something more. A hug goodbye. A ’let’s-not-see-each-other-again’. A kiss on the cheek. A shove in the direction of my house and a warning not to look for him again. One extreme to the other.

I wasn’t growing used to the two different minds that had split power in my head. I wished they’d dissolve into one.

He started his car again and without as much as a wave he was driving away down the road and I was left with a short walk in the direction of my house just round the corner.

How much I missed my mother and sleeping in my own bed. These were all things I knew I’d enjoy and never want to let go of again. Something I took no special comfort in during old days but now it felt really important.

I was left staring up at my own door as I strolled up my porch. The curtains were drawn and the lights appeared to be off. The house looked dead. I carefully knocked on the door.

Footsteps echoed inside a few seconds later and a warm, fuzzy anticipation bubbled up inside me. Home was right here, just beyond the door and then my own space right up the stairs. Time to myself and no one was around to disturb me.

The door slowly opened. A cracked voice called out before I could clearly see the face and asked, “Hello?”

I saw my mother dressed in old ragged clothing she reserved for DIY jobs. Her hair was in tangled knots and her face looked blotchy and red.

I forced a small smile to reassure her. I reached out for a hug as I said, “Mom, I’m home.”

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