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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25. Chapter 25

Throughout the next day, Dante’s father, George, had been a little more open. He’d given me a small welcome to the Bancroft pack and then gave me a low-down on how he ran things. I was expecting strict rules, like a prison in some ways, but instead I was surprised.

From what he’d told me, they weren’t the relaxed kind of pack I found Touren to be and reminded me of how the Dimera operate. Bancroft had fewer members than Dimera, I’d been told. That never used to be the case. Bancroft was once the strongest pack in all of the north, but things had changed. Now they hid, lied, and tried to maintain their strong status while their members died without bringing the next generation. Now, George said, Touren probably had more pack members than Bancroft.

“What’s causing your pack members to die?” I asked as I sat around the small kitchen table.

George flicked through his morning paper. “The decline has gradually increased since the 40’s. Packs generally know that our member count is falling, but they don’t know our member count is as low as 150. They still think our pack has the highest member count in all of Northern America. We’ve maintained a lie for over half a century.” He shrugged like he couldn’t care less. He had probably told people the story before, the script of what he had to say was stuck in his brain. He didn’t have to think. “That’s why Dimera exist,” he said, “We realised something was wrong, more people dying than being born. Dimera formed a pack because my late father lost control and bit a human allowing them to exist. We essentially created our own enemies.”

I fiddled with the handle of my mug and looked into the steam in thought. I then said, “Have you ever thought that maybe all these werewolves dying... isn’t natural?” I suddenly felt like the question was stupid. Of course they’d have thought about it.

George closed the paper over and sighed like he’d had enough. George said, “My father had the same suspicion when he was alpha. It was never proven and since I came into power, I never pursued the theory. We’re just going through an unfortunate phase in our pack’s cycle. Our men are weak. Bancroft pack has a pattern of human children since the 40’s, we struggle to have natural born werewolves. We turn our children when they reach 13, but turned werewolves will never be as strong as a natural born, so they’ll never become a fighter werewolf and are unlikely to have natural born offspring. It’s a never ending pattern our pack has yet to grow out of.”

Everything seemed to click into place in the explanation about the packs. I had the best understanding of both sides and felt accomplished in knowing the truth. One part, however, still didn’t make sense.

“So what you’re saying is Bancroft pack members randomly stopped producing werewolf children?”

Dante chose to answer from the seat beside me for the first time in this long discussion. “Basically,” he said.

But what made the first non-werewolf child be born? With two werewolf parents, the child should also be werewolf. It made no sense.

As I was about to question it, there was a small knock from the closed kitchen door.

A small female head popped around the corner with an alarmed expression and said, “I’m sorry, Alpha, but there’s been an incident.”

George stood, calm and collected as he nodded for her to continue. “The police,” she said, “They’re on our territory. There’s been a murder.”

***

Standing behind the yellow tape at the scene, I observed everything going on. Dante and his father were in an intense but hushed argument behind me. I tried not to listen in, but it was hard.

The tape was flimsy, tied to several of the trees. Some other people gathered just like me, but most of them only because the crime was on their doorstep. Many Bancroft pack members lived in small homes scattered throughout the forest on Bancroft land. These guys might as well have been killed in their yards.

I had expected a bloody scene with gore and forensic teams crawling the place but it wasn’t what I’d expected. A father of around 40 lay flat on the ground as if he’d fell beside a boy no older than five, also dead. They belonged to the Bancroft pack.

The bodies were found by a group of forest walkers. They’d called the police straight away.

After what had happened in these areas before, I was surprised anyone dared enter the forest. They’d be stupid to try after this. Police were now unknowingly involved in werewolf business and now Bancroft had to be careful. Very careful.

“My father can’t get his head around how we didn’t detect or smell the hikers as they entered our territory. We can’t stop them from entering but we try our hardest to keep them out,” Dante said as he pointed to the bodies. “To have found the bodies, they must have been on our land for at least half an hour, plenty of time for us to find them with our own men securing the land. Human scents are strong and in a werewolf area it would be hard to miss a human scent.”

“Then what went wrong?” I asked as my hands clutched the yellow tape as they began to shake. I struggled to understand how Dante was this calm as he looked at two dead men from his pack – people I assumed he knew well.

“What went wrong is that two pack members have died and humans happened to find them,” Dante raged in pressed whispers. “The police will be here for weeks.”

Dante’s eyes glinted in fear. He himself didn’t know what to do so I sure hoped his father would. “What’s next?” I asked.

Dante said something under his breath before speaking up and saying, “We wait.” Dante stalked off towards his father and they walked away out of sight for the privacy to discuss their plans.

As I observed the police scanning the area with their tools for evidence, I noticed a woman hugging an elder with a small toddler in her arms. They quietly cried into each other’s arms as tears streamed down both of their faces. The little girl didn’t seem to understand the situation.

“Shh, it’s ok,” the elderly woman said as she rubbed the younger woman’s back.

This triggered another round of tears as she broke down into her arms crushing the toddler against the other woman’s chest. “He’s dead, mom,” she cried.

Relatives, I realised. How hard was it to be here seeing their dead bodies’ right in front of them? I couldn’t imagine what they were going through.

The two dead males had a family. The woman was probably the man’s wife, the boy her son, the little girl, a daughter and sibling, the elderly woman would be the grandmother. They wouldn’t get to talk to each other again, wouldn’t get to say goodbye. Was the little girl old enough to realise what was going on? She sat quietly in her mom’s arms, appearing not to know.

She’d have to grow up with half a family.

There was a tap on my shoulder from across the other side of the tape. Across from me stood Henry, the sheriff. “You do realise running away from home is a state offense, Riley?” He suddenly said.

Oh, Shit! I’d just upped and left home last night and told her I was going for a walk. I’d been away for nearly twenty four hours. Mom would be worried sick.

I’d grown so used to roaming around and not thinking my mom was there that I’d forgot to tell her where I was or what I was doing. Suddenly I didn’t worry about the werewolf drama, the dead people meters away, or the mourning family. My mom needed me most right now.

“What, wait-,” I mumbled in a flurry of thought.

“Your father has just-,” He began to say but stopped himself. “Your mother doesn’t need a rebellious daughter at this time in her life; you’re making things harder than they have to be,” he scolded.

I shook my head in protest, but what could I have told him? I went to warn a bunch of werewolves about their impending doom and then decided to spend the night with my wolf boyfriend-mate-friend out in a cabin all alone before heading home and having a nice breakfast with his family.

The gap between my human and werewolf life was becoming harder to bridge.

“I didn’t run away, I swear,” I defended myself.

Henry lifted the yellow tape above his head and stepped out of the crime scene. “Your mother came to the police station at nine o’clock to reporting you missing after you ‘went away for a walk’ at ten that morning,” He said. Henry looked disappointed, as if I’d done something terrible.

I felt horrible still. She must have been worried sick. She’d lost her husband who she now thought dead, who in reality was living a double life very much alive and occasionally on all fours, and now I’d panicked her into thinking her daughter was missing too.

“I thought you’d have more sense than this, Riley...” He said as he reached for his handcuffs and pulled them from the holder.

I screwed my eyebrows together. He was going to arrest me now? “I’ll go, I’ll go! Just leave off the cuffs, okay?”

Henry grabbed my wrist and forcibly twisted then behind my back. “Riley, it’s a state offense in Wyoming to run away from home if you’re under the age of 18. Now co-operate or I’ll have to call in some other officers and they won’t be as nice as me,” Henry warned. What an overreaction!

A small whimper escaped my lips. How embarrassing.

“Riley!?” A voice called.

Dante sprinted towards me until he skidded to a halt just meters away. He curiously watched as my hands were twisted painfully behind my back.

There was a first for everything and this just so happened to be my first time being arrested. What a day this was.

“What did you do?” Dante asked, half amused but half confused. Glad he found it so funny.

Henry yanked me backwards to make sure I wouldn’t run away. “This young lady ran away from home, so I’m just returning her to where she belongs,” he explained.

Dante stuttered a laugh. “She spent the night with me, officer,” Dante said as if he saw nothing wrong with that. I could have hit him. I could have skinned him alive right then.

Henry quietened for a second to look between us. I tried to hide my face. “You ran away to be with... A boy, Riley?”

I nervously laughed, but all I could feel was the fear that he’d tell my mom. “No, it wasn’t like that,” I shouted. He’s didn’t believe me, though, so I said what I felt was most suitable, “please don’t tell my mom.”

Henry raised an eyebrow at Dante. “How come I’ve never seen you before, boy?”

Dante held out his hand and Henry stared down at it wondering for a second if he should shake it. “I’m Dante, Dante Bancroft. I live out here with my parents,” he said, sounding not in the least concerned.

Henry ignored the hand shake and grunted a reply, saying, “Yeah, ok. Now move it, Riley.”

I gave a small last hopeful look at Dante but I found him laughing at me instead. I glared in his direction before Henry forced me to turn around.

***

Mom shut the door behind me, not saying a word. She’d picked me up from the police station, talked a bit with Henry and then we were driving back home. I had a feeling she’d unleash hell as soon as we stepped through the front door.

“Mom, just listen-,” I began. She turned around at the other end of the hall to meet my words. Her expression made me rethink what I was going to say.

She took a warning step closer and raised a shaking finger. “You have no idea what you’re putting me through, Riley, no idea!”

I took fast steps forward, arms out for a hug. As I wrapped my arms around her, she remained still and refused to hug me back. I expected that, though. “Henry told me who you were with,” mom said.

“And what did he tell you?”

She sniffed a little and tried to get out of my arms. “You were with a boy. You really ran away just to be with a boy?”

I stepped away and shook my head in protest. “No, I didn’t run away. Something came up, I swear. I forgot-.”

“You forgot that I was waiting on you back home!?” She threw her hands in the air as she went through to the kitchen and began moving things around for no particular reason.

“Yes-,” I originally said. “No!” I changed my mind when I saw her face drop.

My mother began to boil the kettle but her hands shook terribly. “I was terrified something had happened, Riley. I thought-,” she cut herself off.

“You thought what?” I asked, tired and upset.

My mother picked up the kettle and poured the steaming water into a cup. “I thought the wolves had got you too,” she said quietly.

In my mind, I couldn’t help but think they’d already got me. I wanted to tell her the truth so bad. I felt horrible – she’d been here all this time, thinking the worst had happened and I’d not thought once to check in on her. I reached out and laid my hand on her shoulder. “Mom...” I said.

She shoved my hand off her and took a step away. “Just go to your room,” she commanded.

“But mom-.”

She looked up and furiously smashed the cup and steaming liquid to the ground, splashing up to scald her legs and cutting them with the sharp shards. “Just go to your room!” She screamed, face bright red with tears bubbling in her eyes.

For a moment everything was silent.

She shakily kneeled to the ground and picked up a dirty fragment of the mug. It was a cheap mug my dad had given her as part of Valentine’s Day; it had a love heart on it. A small cry left her mouth as she sat there on the ground with a hand over her mouth.

I backed out of the room, no strength to do or say anything at all. “I’m sorry...”

 

 

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