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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24. Chapter 24

“Hey Riley, would you go to the store for some milk? I think the one in the fridge is past its use by...” My mother said, appearing around the corner holding a carton of milk with a disgusted expression. She held it out for me to smell but I cringed away and instead got up, ready to put my shoes on.

I nodded at her request and said, “Sure.” Although I was enjoying the morning TV, I was enjoying being with my mother more. I’d missed her so much that I hadn’t even kicked up a fuss when she asked me to clean my room.

Since arriving on her doorstep two days ago, mom’s cheeks had brightened and she had begun to smile again. Maybe I should have come home sooner and ignored her warnings to stay away, I found myself thinking.

She hadn’t mentioned dad once, but when night came she still popped her head around the door frame as if to ask him if he’d like a hot-chocolate, but of course he wasn’t ever there to say his thank you. I’d heard her crying softly last night but didn’t disturb her. She didn’t want me to know about her pain.

I made sure my purse was in my trouser pockets and I zipped a thin coat over my cold body. I opened the door a second later and the cold air instantly tore through the house, making the hairs on my arms stand straight. The local convenience store was close by, thankfully.

I glanced at the trees lining the path to my right as I walked into town. I wondered briefly if someone from either pack around here was watching me. Was Dante out there? Or even Austin? Maybe if I tried to develop my werewolf abilities like heightened sense of smell, I’d be able to detect someone… But I felt just as useless as I was when I was a human. Maybe this was how it’d be, considering I wasn’t born into this life?

I wouldn’t be a help to anyone like this.

I chose not to sit on the subject and let my thoughts wander elsewhere. Soon enough the path strayed away from the trees and into a small estate closer to the inner parts of town. Houses lined either side of me and up ahead was the ambience of yellow lights that refracted through the glass of the store. It was still fairly dull, being early morning.

As I entered, a small bell rung above my head and I made a move to fetch my purse. I nodded a hello to the familiar woman behind the till and made my way up the aisle.

I moved towards the chillers at the back of the store at the end of an aisle and grabbed a carton from the smaller section. I was eager to leave and turned quickly to retreat back down the aisle when my body collided with another. I rushed to mutter my apologies and said, “I didn’t see you there, sorry.” I glanced up as I backed away and saw a familiar face. Bianca. Of course she’d be here.

She looked bored as she got to the point straight away and said, “Look, I’m not here to have some small talk. My dad sent me.”

“You don’t need to do what he tells you all the time,” I said as I pulled Bianca and me into a smaller corner of the store, out of sight of the cashier.

Bianca placed a hand on her hip, resembling slightly the friend I’d had before. She looked me up and down, slowly analysing me as if she was meeting a stranger. “I still can’t believe you’re one of them now, it’s horrible,” she finally said. So that’s what this was about, I thought.

“What difference does it make, really?” I asked. I hadn’t changed in the slightest. I wasn’t a different person, she was the different person.

“If you became a rogue it would be different, but you just had to stick around in a pack and look where that got you. I even heard the Dimera’s have kicked you out. I guess you live and learn – now you see what kind of people we are dealing with,” She said as if she expected me to understand her. To know where she was coming from and run to her side as if I was wrong all along… Except it looked like she was missing one little fact.

I shoved myself away from her and stormed off down the aisle. I yelled over my shoulder as I retreated, “No, Bianca. You’re wrong.”

“So where are you going to go now, Riley?” She shouted as she stormed off after me as I placed my things on the checkout. “You’re a rogue now. You don’t have a pack,” she said.

Bianca definitely was missing a fact or two.

I laughed teasingly, knowing it was in my hands now to mend what we once had or tell her the truth. “So your father hasn’t told you yet?” I asked.

She bunched her eyebrows together in confusion and replied venomously, “Told me what?”

As the woman bagged up my stuff, I passed her the coins. She handed me the bag, receipt, and change. I swiftly made my way towards the door with the cashier watching Bianca curiously as she charged after me.

“Riley!” She shouted.                                                                                      

I stopped with my hands on the door handle. I didn’t even turn to look at her and said as confidently as possible. “I’m a Bancroft wolf now. Have a look at Bancroft’s next Alpha female.”

Calm and collected, I walked at my own pace out the shop with Bianca standing stunned and in shock. It didn’t last, as second later she began scrambling to catch me with a round of interrogation.

“What do you mean? So you’re now-,” She stuttered over her own words in disgust, “with Dante Bancroft? I don’t know you any more, Riley. You’re disgusting!”

But that was enough to make me snap. I could feel my finger nails digging into my hand and my blood boiling. “Disgusting? Please elaborate,” I spat back.

“First you grab onto Dimera through their son Austin and now you’re doing the same with Bancroft and Dante. That is disgusting,” she explained. Wrong again, I thought. You’re the disgusting one here.

I shook my head and used my pointed finger to jab her in the shoulder. “Dante is my mate. I have absolutely no say in any of this but you wouldn’t know, now would you? You’re just a meaningless, ignorant human getting involved in dangerous business,” I replied in fury, for a second disregarding any hypocrisy in my words.

Bianca looked livid and retorted, “And you’re just an evil monster! Look at you, you’re a completely different person.”

As I retracted my finger from her chest, I realised my nails had turned a disgusting brown and the nail was elongated and pointed… Exactly like a claw.

I curled my hand into a fist and tucked it away out of sight hoping Bianca hadn’t noticed. I decided it was time we ended this conversation and asked, “What was this message that your father wanted to give me, Bianca? I really don’t have time for this.” I wasn’t going to give her the pleasure of getting under my skin or else her skin might end up under my claws in a vicious slap.

Bianca snorted a laugh as if she’d suddenly remembered and said, “Watch your back. The hunters are coming.”

***

I got home, handed mom the bag, and told her I was going for a walk. I couldn’t stop thinking about the message. Hunters? Werewolf hunters? Regular wolf hunters? Whatever it was, it wasn’t good news for any of us.

The way to Dimera land had been engraved in my mind, unlike Bancroft that was just out of town and unfamiliar. I didn’t think when I began to make my way in the direction of Dimera hoping then I’d be able to find Dante. I had to tell someone, anyone. A plan needed to be made.

I was sure once I arrived at Wolf Lake someone wold find me. Dante would appear and we could warn everyone – even the Dimera’s. We had to be quick.

After a short walk up steeps slopes, I took quick note of my stronger muscles and faster speeds. I hadn’t broke out in sweat and I felt unstoppable right at that moment. Wolf Lake came into sight in an instant, and there standing in the middle of the clearing were three men – Austin, Mr. Dimera, and another man. They had sensed me coming. I should have thought about that.

“What do you want?” Mr. Dimera asked as I approached. “We could kill you for trespassing on our land, Riley.”

“What’s your problem?” I shot back, slightly questioning my choice of letting them know about the hunters. Maybe they deserved an unanticipated fight. I kept quiet for now.

“Don’t come any closer, Riley,” Austin warned as I came within five meters of the three men.

I tilted my head to the side and asked, “Did your dad tell you to say that, too?”

Mr. Dimera became offended and intervened quickly to say, “I’d be careful with what you’re saying unless you want to leave here nailed shut in a box.”

“You wouldn’t dare,” I quietly warned. Watching Mr. Dimera now made me want to vomit. I hated the man to unjustified levels.

“Why are you here? Where’s Dante?” Austin asked suddenly. “You can’t just come see us anymore; you aren’t a member of this pack.”

I should have seen this coming. They all looked down on me, not letting me speak for myself. Instead all they cared about was the fact I was now in Bancroft and it was only Dante’s word they wanted to hear. Was I not still the same Riley they’d taken in a few months ago? Was I not trustworthy?

I dared to step closer, ignoring their warning. “What was I to you, Austin, that you can just play it nice one minute and then act rude to me the next? I came here to pass on a warning, but I don’t think you deserve to know now,” I said. I had no intentions of spitting it out now. I’d tell Dante when I got out of this situation, and then he could decide if he wanted to warn the Dimera’s or not.

“Spit it out and leave, then,” Mr. Dimera droned in a bored monotone.

I decided I’d take my leave right then and began to retreat the way I came. Of course coming this way wasn’t a good idea, but the concept of pack territories and where I could and couldn’t set foot was confusing and it wasn’t my first thought to avoid Wolf Lake because the Dimera’s had claimed it as their own. “I’ll just skip the first step and jump right to the next,” I said. I wasn’t saying a word of warning to them now. I could have built a bridge over to Dimera’s and fixed that gap, I could have picked up my possession and said hi to my dad, but that clearly wasn’t to happen.

Mr. Dimera nodded to the man I didn’t know as if passing an unspoken command and before I knew it he had his arms tight around me and dragged me back, closer to the group of them. “You came here with a purpose. You should tell us what you came here to say. Consider this merciful. Your attitude elsewhere might have gotten you killed. No one disrespects an alpha,” Mr. Dimera said.

“I’ll respect the alpha once he deserves it,” I replied as I literally spat at his feet.

His face turned red with rage as his grubby hands shot up and took hold of my jaw, painfully pushing my head back. “You better listen, Kerr. Your father is still in this pack and subject to my protection. Do you understand what I’m saying?” His hands clenched and unclenched by his side, resisting any violent urges. “Now you tell us what you came here to say or we’ll leave you out here for the wolves.”

As their grip tightened and my cheek began to sting, I gave up. I felt pathetic and stupid for even trying. “The hunters are coming,” I breathed. My heart was pounding so fast I was scared it would leap from my chest.

Mr. Dimera rolled his eyes. Behind him, his son stood bored. “Gary and Bianca can be taken care of, stupid girl, wasting both our time to tell us something we already know,” he muttered.

I shook my head in frustration as I felt my nails grow and decrease in size like talons as my anger pulsed. “No. It didn’t sound like that this time. There’s someone else, and they’re not just declaring a war on Dimera; they’re declaring a war on werewolves.”

“What do you take me for?” He spat in reply. Mr. Dimera didn’t believe a word I said. “If you’re trying to cause something, it’s not working.”

“I’m trying to prevent something terrible from happening,” I shouted.

“And you thought we needed a warning?” Mr. Dimera gave a look to the man behind me who still had me locked in place. A moment later, he dropped me to the ground. “I’m giving you five minutes for you to leave our land. Can’t say we didn’t warn you.”

Mr. Dimera and the unnamed man walked away. As they removed themselves, a new person in the distance arrived on scene. I didn’t look up in case it’d embarrass me further.

Silently, the new person who arrived crouched beside me, gently wrapping their arms around my waist from behind and pulled me to my feet. The distinct smell of Dante radiated off the warm figure.

“You shouldn’t be here either, Dante,” Austin muttered, remaining relatively calm.

Dante glared at Austin, making sure Austin knew he should stop talking in case he had something else to say. “Your pack is vile. You know Riley. She’s helped the Dimera’s a lot and now you treat her like this because the situation has changed?”

“I didn’t harm her-,” Austin was quick to defend himself

Dante made sure I was balanced fine before he launched himself in Austin’s face. “But your father did! What would you have done or said, Austin, if I hadn’t shown up when I did? I could feel her fear in me. Don’t you know how panicked she must have been for me to feel that?”

Austin looked away and didn’t raise his voice. I almost felt sorry for him. He looked drained. “I done nothing,” he said.

“Which is just as bad as hurting her! You stood there and watched. I don’t know how you and Riley stood before I came along, but it’s obvious you were at least friends. The fact that you can stand there and watch her be hurt speaks louder than any words about you as a person, Austin.”

Austin grew agitated and replied, “What am I supposed to do? She trespassed on our land. My father can, legally, do what he wants with her. You’re lucky he’s let her be!”

Dante looked down on Austin and said back, “Go run to your father. Legally you can do anything, but anyone with a heart would look twice at a trespasser and gives them a second chance instead of jumping in to kill. Riley shouldn’t have to be lucky.” Dante glanced back at me for a second before saying, “If she was a rogue, what’s the chances she would have been killed without a word?”

“You can’t say anything, Bancroft; your pack is worse if anything,” Austin retorted. I felt like they were just as bad as each other.

Dante didn’t seem to like that reply as his eyes turned a shade darker. I was so mad I didn’t even think about stopping either of them. “My pack know when and when not to attack. We don’t kill innocent people. We know when to use the power given to us.” Dante reached backwards to bring me to his side protectively, saying, “Someone needs to deflate that Dimera ego of yours, and whilst that happens how about you and your father man up a little?”

***

“What the hell were you thinking?” Dante screamed at me. We weren’t at his house – he told me there were visitors and didn’t like how crowded it would become. Instead we were at a small cabin belonging to his family that had been used over the years for whatever reasons they had.

“We’ve been over this...” I muttered as I paced the wood floor over and over.

“They could have killed you and would have killed you if you were anyone else,” he roared. Apparently he wasn’t too pleased I walked willingly onto their land without asking him first. I had tried to explain that I wasn’t thinking and that set him off even more. “This is why you shouldn’t be back home. You’re far too ignorant and vulnerable right now!”

“I can’t come live with your family, Dante, it’s just... Too weird,” I said. Extremely weird actually. Living with the Dimera’s were supposed to be temporary measures. If I were to live with Dante, I’d be going on my own two feet and for what he’d see as permanent measures.

Dante grumbled under his breath before saying, “The werewolf world moves faster than the human world, I know, I know.” He ran a hand through his hair in frustration – a habit he shared with Austin. “It’s just stressful,” he said, “I’m used to this life, you’re not. It’s making things awkward. I couldn’t sleep at all knowing you weren’t with anyone who could protect you. At least when you were with Dimera, I knew you would be safe – to a certain degree at least. With your mother you’re left defenceless.”

“Who would want to hurt me, Dante, in all honesty? I’m of no interest to anyone,” I replied as I threw myself in frustration down onto the couch in the cabin. I leaned my head back and closed my eyes to stop the dizziness.

Dante approached from behind and took a seat beside me. “You have connections to two of the most rivalled packs in North America. Once word gets out about you, you’ll be one of the most desired werewolf females around, and not in a good way. Pack alphas will want to meet you; rogues will want to take you for ransom. People will talk. Not to mention the hunters. You heard yourself how they’re coming, and how much am I betting they already know all about you?” He explained. I had forgotten about the details and how complex this was proving to be. I’d brushed over the fact that the entire fear Dimera had harboured about my connection with them was based on other packs trying to provoke Austin – the future of their pack.

Dante growled lightly to himself sounding a lot more animalistic than usual. “Drama after drama,” he said.

I shook my head sadly. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t be. This is why packs shouldn’t exist – nothing but trouble,” Dante replied, turning slightly to look at me sitting on the small double seater in the middle of the room.

“Without packs there is no real order. Crime would rise and there would be no proper enforcer of law,” I said, but felt like I was trying to convince even myself. “Unless one was appointed,” I finished.

Dante sank further into the seat beside me. “You always see everything a good light. That’s one of the many things I like about you,” he complimented.

Or at least, I thought, a lot of the stuff that comes from my mouth is in a good light. My thoughts on the other hand were a lot more doom-and-gloom.

The cabin was slowly warming with our body heat after a few minutes or so with the help of a small fire Dante had lit in the fireplace in the corner. With no light but the glow of the fire, I looked around and saw how outdated everything seemed. I didn’t think anyone had been here in years.

“It’s peaceful out here. Do you come often?” I asked, hoping to move topic.

Dante shook his head. “Not anymore. When I was a kid, I’d come out here to get away from all the pack business. It stressed everyone out, so the cabin was a nice quiet place to hide.”

I wasn’t going to ask what business had made him feel the need to hide but it was nice that I now knew where his safe place was – or once was. The small dainty cabin had a small kitchen, couch, fireplace, and bedroom in the one single room. An old fashioned out-house was out back. It was cosy.

“It’s strange to think how someone was raised knowing all about... this,” I said, “I mean, it makes everything I’ve been raised knowing seem boring and insignificant. I was never pressured and I was normal... But then there’s you. You were brought up in a world of werewolves with strict laws and rules, knowing one day all of it would be on your shoulders. I wouldn’t be able to cope.”

Dante gently took my hand in his. “Everyone has a way of making it through a tough time. Somehow. Humans have it tough too, but in different ways. Don’t put down your old struggles,” he said quietly, his voice floating through the still air of the cabin like a note on a piano.

I looked up at Dante only to find him staring back at me. An electric buzz activated between us, awakening the wolf side of my thoughts that pushed me closer towards him. It was a supernatural attraction.

Everything moves faster in the werewolf world, I thought, realising Dante and I had been on good terms for no longer than a few days.

Too fast, I thought, but the speed of his feelings were beginning to sync with mine as we both became tired of resisting what both our werewolves were demanding. My wolf gained more and more control for every second spent with Dante until finally I found myself smiling at the thought of being with him.

The feelings growing for Dante were more than what I had for Austin. Austin had my inferior human feelings. Dante had reigned in the supernatural ones. I’d known Austin for months; I’d known Dante for a week. It was unreal.

Dante leaned in that slight bit closer and my heart began to beat erratically in my chest.

He paused as if to ask permission. I didn’t pull away or tell him not to. He leaned a little closer.

Thump, thump, thump, my heart began to beat at abnormal speeds.

Then his lips were there, just fractions of a millimetre away as if to kiss me, but he wasn’t. Just a final push and he’d be there.

Thump, thump, thump.

His lips crashed into mine as I greedily put my hands in his hair to pull him closer. I didn’t care what had possessed me to move first, but something had and it was happening now. For the first time, we gently kissed, incomparable to anything from before.

Light seemed dim as the day progressed to night while we sat there together in a world of our own, just the two of us for what felt like hours.

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