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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3. Chapter 3

School didn’t go much to plan either. I imagined I’d wake up and meet my friends before going inside and having just another regular day. Instead I walked to school with a limp before finding out my friends were nowhere to be found. I spent that morning alone. 

So the start of the day wasn’t as I planned, but who’s to say the rest would be just as bad? I was feeling optimistic.

I sat down at my lunch table and I saw Bianca for the first time that day. Beside her sat Liam and Gina – other friends who we spent our lunch hour with. I waved ‘hi’ to both of them before I dug through my bag for my sandwich.

“Sorry we weren’t around this morning, I was talking with the coach and Gina and Liam were late, like usual. I wonder what you guys were up to,” Bianca said. Almost everyone within our small friend circle was aware that both Gina and Liam had a thing for each other, not that it changed very much but it made for good teasing.

The door to the cafeteria swung open behind us like it had been doing all lunchtime as students came and went. From the corner of my eye, I noticed who entered through the door this time. Austin made his way through the small crowd towards the tables with a friend or two in tow. No one but us seemed to take notice.

Bianca noticed my gaze like she had in the café yesterday and kept watch with me. “At least he’s not ugly,” I heard her comment. A big grin broke out on my face.

“And there’s that smile I’ve missed,” Bianca said. I hadn’t realised I’d been looking so down.

I giggled and opened my lunch container before taking a few bites while propping my feet up on the vacant seat beside me. “Hey, Bianca. How close to town have you seen the wolves before?” I asked as a conversation starter. Gina and Liam were off in their own world together.

Bianca scrunched up her eyebrows in thought. “They know what’s best for them, so not very close. Why?”

I shrugged nonchalantly and picked at my food. I studied the cracks in the veneered wood. “I could see one last night from my window. It seemed strange, but maybe I hadn’t noticed it before.”

Bianca looked surprised. “Are you sure?” She exclaimed.                                                                                     

I nodded. “I’m sure.”

“How close is from your window, Riley?” Bianca asked, taking a serious turn.

Who knows how many times that album had played on repeat to try and drown out their incessant howling last night. It hadn’t bothered me in the past, and really, it shouldn’t be bothering me now.

“Just by the treeline. It wasn’t in my yard or anything.” No wild animal would wait outside a human’s home for food, which made me wonder what it was actually doing. Was it stalking me? Wolves did that, right?

I couldn’t help but connect a dot between the wolves stalking me and Hilary - but that was stupid; Hilary was stupid. The incident with Hilary might have riled them and nothing more… but somehow it felt weird.

She gasped loudly. “They never come that close to town!” Bianca whispered frantically. Bianca was raised like me, out in the open with the fresh air around her… But that didn’t at all mean she ever grew a liking for the wildlife. “Tell the sheriff! He’ll sort it out with no more than two bullet between the eyes.” She was getting louder, and I feared everyone else would hear what was being said.

Bianca’s father had been attacked years ago and he never told anyone the details. He now had a long scar running from one side of his face to the other because of it. Naturally, Bianca hated the animals for it.

She was handling it better that usual, though. The last time she got so riled about the subject she earned herself a detention for storming out of our class during a discussion.

I tried to calm her, unless I wanted another incident like that. “They didn’t come closer, I swear, but if they do try anything you’ll be the first person I tell!” I told her, lying through my teeth.

“And the first person I go get is the last person those filthy creatures see!” She pounded her fist violently onto the lunch table. “I swear, if anything bad happens to you, I’m personally joining the wolf hunt,” Bianca exclaimed, although I found that hard to believe.

I laughed at her deciding it was best not to tell her off. They weren’t as bad as she liked to make them out to be and I couldn’t help but tell myself off for bringing up the subject.

A few minutes later I glanced at my watch. The bell was about to go – the last part of the day about to begin. To avoid the crowd, I said my goodbyes probably for the day to my friends. I got up to make my way to the trash can.

I dumped the empty food packets in the trash and turned on my heel to make my way to the door when my eyes connected with another’s. Through the crowd of barging students, I saw Austin staring back at me. He looked lost in his own world with a concerned expression etched onto his face.

I took a moment to blink and when I reopened my eyes, I lost him. He was everywhere, I thought. I was seeing him everywhere! I told myself it wasn’t my fault, I wasn’t noticing him – it was him putting himself in the position to be noticed.

Or maybe I was overthinking it.

My hands clenched in frustration before Bianca caught my attention from the other side of the lunch hall who enthusiastically waved.

Don’t over-think it, Riley. Don’t over-think it.

***

My science teacher made me wait after class because my grades were slipping. No surprised there. Recently my grades weren’t up to their usual standard, but I didn’t care to try harder and they got worse and worse. My parents hadn’t mentioned it yet, but I was sure they knew.

I began to walk home an hour later than usual as the sun was setting. It left a hazy orange glow over the sidewalk so I made a point of walking closer to the shade that lined the inner portion of the path. Immediately to my left was the very same forest Hilary had led me into after her so called prank. To the right of me, a long stretch of detached houses.

My phone began to ring. I sighed knowing it’d be my mom wondering where I’d got to, seeing as I was now about an hour late. I picked it up a few seconds later.

“Where are you?” My mom immediately asked.

“Sorry, a teacher wanted to talk to me,” I said, knowing it was best to be honest with her.

She grumbled under her breath before saying, “Well hurry up and get home, take the short-cut if you’d prefer. I have to go to the store in about half an hour and I want you home before then.” She hung up the phone before hearing my reply with a bang, as if she’d slammed it into the dock.

I was about to cross the road at the usual spot when I began to eye the shortcut in the trees up ahead. It was a small gap in the trees that led to a small trail around the back of the main housing development ahead. As I thought about it, I realised it’d lead me to around the same spot that wolf was watching me from last night.

What if it was still there?

Then again, my brain countered, if I didn’t take the short cut I’d be more than half an hour getting home. The short cut would only take ten minutes. I looked up at the sky and noted that it wasn’t yet dark. The wolves wouldn’t be out yet… Not even close.

I took a step closer to the forest trail hesitantly, peering around for anything that would convince me to run in the other direction. Nothing. As I lingered on the edge, I told myself again they’d still be asleep. It wasn’t the time of day for them to be up and about.

I made my way forward in the fading light and began to get the chills. My mother would have my head if I took the long way, I thought, but a wolf might have my head instead if I took the short-cut.

My legs began to speed walk towards the path before I could change my mind. Soon enough, I was engulfed in the shade of the trees and nearly half way home. I wouldn’t have thought twice about going this way in the past.

Hyper-aware of my surrounding, every little noise jolted me for a millisecond. Every unfamiliar motion made me pause.

Then, a louder noise hit me through the forest ambience.

Crunch.

I froze in fear. It was behind me. Something was behind me. A lump in my throat began to form and my heart sunk with deep chest crushing beats of fear. Irrationality told me to run, but I knew that’s exactly what it was – irrationality.

The internal fight didn’t last very long before I found myself against my will bolting off the main track and into the overgrown grass and shrubs. This was totally my mom’s fault.

I didn’t think I even bothered to think about safety and watching where I was going as I narrowly missed a tree and ended up tripping over its roots. As I came crashing to the floor, the dirt skidded off my skin, peeling off a painful layer as bright red blood began to form on the surface.

Searing pain ripped its way up my leg. It brought tears to my eyes - and to think my house was probably no more than 50 meters away. And now, nothing appeared to be behind me. There was probably nothing to begin with, I thought. I really was going mad with paranoia.

I propped myself up on my elbows to further inspect the damage; it didn’t appear to be serious, but now I was down a pair of jeans and my leg looked fairly bloodied. I didn’t want to attempt to stand on it.

“Agh,” I whined in pain.

I reached for my phone once more to call my mom and tell her what had happened. I’m sure she’d be over the moon with me this time. Before I could hit the speed dial number, however, a voice came out of nowhere. “Why are you always lying injured in the forest, Riley?” My entire body jumped in fright.

I swallowed the lump in my throat but it was still there, taunting the tears to fall down my face as I turned to see the person. Of course it was Austin.

As I turned to face him behind me, I saw his hands drop his t-shirt over his abdomen as if he was just putting it on. I noticed his feet straight away and realized he wasn’t wearing shoes.

“No shoes?” I asked, my voice coming out higher than I’d anticipated. “Why are you here?”

He stared down at his bare feet and shrugged like it was normal, ignoring the other question. I wouldn’t be getting a sane explanation any time soon, then.

Austin approached my crumpled body with a sigh, as If I was a small child he had to see to. I was almost tempted to tell him to leave so I could restore some pride, but I realised he probably would and then I really would be left out here all night…

He sounded annoyed as he said, “Stay still; I’m going to have to carry you home, aren’t I?”

Well, probably, I thought. “Oh, no, you don’t have to-,” I tried to tell him but he was having none of it.

He silenced whatever protests I had as he knelt down and tucked his arms under my back and knees and carried me bridal style. In these situations was silence the answer, or perhaps small talk?

It took virtually minutes to reach the end of the trail in my backyard. I wasn’t even surprised that he knew the way. He probably knew the forests like the back of his hand considering he lived in the middle of it with his parents.

“You should probably get that checked out, looks like you’ve got dirt in it,” he said as he approached the back door. He knocked twice.

“You should probably go-,” I tried to say.

I didn’t get much time to convince him to leave before my mother had yanked open the door to see the two of us there. She eyed the two of us curiously and I saw the fire there ready to start an argument.

“An hour, Riley, really?” She asked furiously before she took a step back and observed Austin. Her eyes softened as she realised who it was. Just as everyone knew everyone here in Mateo, my mom was no exception. “Oh, hello Austin.”

He smiled in return. “Hey Mrs Kerr, just dropping Riley off,” he said as if it wasn’t weird at all. He leaned forward and let me put my feet on the ground. Before he let go of me entirely, I grabbed hold of the wall before my leg could sear in protests.

My mother looked confused but kept back her questions. “Well thank you, Austin,” she said as he turned around and went the way he came without another word, disappearing as swiftly as he arrived. Both my mother and I watched him go.

“Isn’t that Austin Dimera? Is he not a bit old for you…?” My mom muttered as she stared off in the direction he went. She backed off slowly into the kitchen.

“He’s in the year above, mom,” I corrected her as I followed her inside.

My mom’s expression brightened with all sorts of idea. “Really? Well that’s great!” She exclaimed. Her eyes lit up like it was Christmas day. “You know, Riley, I think you should branch out a bit more. Make some new friends.” I knew where this was going. “Austin seems like a nice boy.”

What probably struck me most as odd was her lack of concern over my injured leg. Instead she gushed over her daughter’s prospective social life with a neighbourhood boy who was proving to be more and more suspicious as days went by.

“I don’t want to talk about this right now. But I would like it if you could help me?” I asked, pointedly gesturing towards my leg as I made my way towards the kitchen table. The door slammed behind me.

For a few seconds, mom looked confused. Her eyes latched onto my leg and she gasped as if she hadn’t noticed. “What happened?” Why else did she think Austin had carried me a short distance home?

I was too tired to argue with her as she dashed around to find bandages. She grabbed them from an upper cupboard and returned to my side a moment later. I decided I should explain. “Long story short, I taken the short cut, got a little spooked and tripped. Austin so happened to be close and helped me out a bit.”

My mom accepted the answer and let me sit down in the kitchen chair to bandage me up. She uncapped a tube of antiseptic. “Wait a second! This is the same Austin from the other day, right? The lake?” She asked as she began to look suspecting and stopped applying the ointment.  I rolled my eyes. Of course she hadn’t forgotten that yet.

“Oh, yeah,” I said.

She appeared to assess the situation for a few seconds before coming to a conclusion. “Well, make sure you thank them next time you bump into each other,” she said. She began to unroll the bandages in her hand.

I gasped like a fish for a few seconds, wondering if she was really going to drop it so easily. My mom was the queen of overreaction, what was this! “Mom!” I exclaimed.

Exasperated, she sighed. “What is it, Riley?” As if she was fed up and bored.

I choked on my own breath for a second, feeling as if I were speaking a different language. “A more or less stranger just brought back your only child injured and you’re not worried?”

My mom got up and began to put everything away. I peered down at my leg and it was now clean and neatly bandaged. “If you want to make something big out of something that really isn’t go ahead. You should be thankful – and they’re not strangers.”

“They could be psychopaths!” I argued, all while knowing I was losing the argument this time.

My mom dotted around cleaning things up. “Don’t be silly, now. Be thankful Austin was around, or god knows what might have happened. Could have ended up on the evening news. I can see the headlines now; ‘Teen girl found mauled to death, identity still unknown’,” mom explained. She was joking, but it wasn’t funny.

My hands clenched around my trouser legs. “Don’t say that,” I warned. My heartbeat began to rapidly increase at the thought.

After what happened at Lake Mateo, everything was beginning to get to me. It’s all I was able to think about, all my thoughts directed to, every hair on my body standing as if I constantly had the chills.

“What? Only telling the truth. In fact, about an hour ago two bodies were found on the hiker trail at the top of the peak,” she nonchalantly said.

 A dark cloud came in over me and I slowly closed my eyes. It was more than a coincidence that hikers had died at the same time as everything else that had been going on. They were coming closer to town, and now they attacked humans? “And? What else happened?” I quizzed her.

“Do you want to scare yourself more? They weren’t from around town. Probably didn’t know what they were doing,” she said.

I chose not to reply.

My mother turned to leave, looking thoroughly fed up. “Told you, Riley. I don’t tell you things for a reason.”

But it was you who brought it up first, I thought sourly as the door closed behind me when she took her exit.

I got up slowly as soon as she’d left. I limped to the window and peered out. It was dark, finally, but it seemed to have gotten darker faster than usual for this time of night. I couldn’t see anything apart from the few meters in front of me and the dark outline of trees just beyond.

Of all parts of the forest, why was Austin here right when I needed someone? His family lived close to Lake Mateo, which I can tell you is nowhere near this part of town. Why did he bother carrying me home when he could have stayed in the shadows and ignore me all together? He didn’t have to care… And what had spooked me so bad other than my own imagination?

I looked out into the dark and this time I see them. I see the same yellow eyes staring back at exactly the same time as the previous nights as it evolved out the shadows to take its spot in the trees.

And, I finally thought, what do the wolves want with me?

 

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