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* {{COMMENT FOR CC SWAP}}
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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30. Chapter 30

The morning was dark and rainy. It poured from the skies and swept the day in a pitiful haze of grey and white. It reflected everyone’s current mood in one way or another. We weren’t prepared for today to come so quickly.

How many hunters would turn up? How many would arrive to slaughter the Dimera and Bancroft packs once and for all? The threats, the letters, and now the final day before it’d all come to a conclusion. They had several months’ notice to prepare, we had mere days.

The days had been a blur and Dante grown nervous as time passed. The only thing that helped me believe we could come away at the end with the threat behind us was him, however looking at him now he wasn’t doing much to help me believe anymore. It felt like we were in a spiral he was forever falling and with each meter he lost an inch of his strength.

As I sat and chased around pieces of food on my plate with a fork, Dante arrived in the doorframe behind me. His shoulders were hunched and his posture was weak, and his skin was pale with black bags under his eyes from lack of sleep. “Today is the day,” he mumbled as he entered the kitchen and sat himself on one of the kitchen chairs.

“It’ll be fine,” I replied, unsure of what he wanted me to say.

He seemed to ignore me and instead peered off into space as if the blank wall in front of him held all the answers. The rain bounced off the external panelling and poured in torrent-like streams down the window. It caught his attention and he began to stare at that instead. I sighed quietly as I watched his face fall.

“There’s no point being so down about it, it was long coming between you and Dimera,” I told him.

His eyes switched hopelessly over to his mother who had become quiet since her husband died. “But this isn’t a fight between Bancroft and Dimera now, is it? It’s Bancroft and Dimera versus the hunters,” he said.

“True,” I admitted, “But the hunters are humans.”

Dante got up quickly from his chair and made his way towards me, determined to make sure I knew how it was. He laid a hand over my shoulders and bent down so his eyes were on level with my own. “Human or not, their intentions are the same. They want to destroy the packs and if they’re not capable of doing that, they’re going to go in for the kill, or at least take a few of us captive.”

Quietly, I replied, “Is that what you’ve been so worried about?”

“I can’t stand the thought of losing you, Riley.” His face reminded me of a puppy, lost in the big bad world with no idea what road to take home.

Dante had every right to carry himself like he had the weight of the world on his shoulders – as far as he was concerned, he did. His pack was his world. Our world.

“I won’t,” I replied, “I know how to protect myself.” Lies, I thought. I couldn’t protect myself but I wasn’t going to worry Dante any time soon.

He looked away for a few seconds and returned with a faux happiness in his eye. “You don’t understand, I don’t think you ever will; the feelings I have for you are ten times stronger than those you or any human born will ever feel. Your brain isn’t wired the way ours is. I loved you from the second I laid eyes on you,” He said quietly.

“I understand-.”

“No you don’t,” he argued, “I’ll help you understand, but for now you have to stay by my side. In this fight you have to stay behind me at all times, my wolf can protect you. I can’t.”

His mother left the room quickly as if sensing we needed privacy. I looked away from him before I heard Dante say, “Don’t look away from me, Riley.”

I nervously looked back again and said in complete seriousness, “Is that Dante or his wolf talking?”

He cracked his neck to the side painfully, but as he peered out the window behind me I saw the animalistic tinge to his gaze. “Of all days for the hunters to choose, they chose a full moon,” he said to himself.

“You, me, both know that’s why they chose today. It’s when you’ll pounce without thinking, during the moon you’ll be at your most vulnerable.”

Dante nodded. “I know.”

“So are you going to do that?” I asked, “Jump straight in for the kill?”

“I can’t control it,” he replied.

“You have to control it!” My hand reached up and ran down the length of his face and said, “You can’t be rash, remember the mistake your grandfather made with Dimera.”

Dante looked off, almost appearing guilty. I couldn’t help myself but lecture him. “The worst that could happen is you bite a hunter and it doesn’t finish him off. If you bite the hunter and they live to tell the tale, you have a hunter turned werewolf if they were a human before. Unless they’re like Gary and hunt their own kind. We already have enough of those, and they certainly don’t need alpha blood in their system,” I said quickly.

He looked up humorously and said, “For a human-born wolf, you sure think like a pure-blood. This is why we were paired; this is why you’re mine.”

The idea of belonging solely to Dante made the wolf inside me the happiest it had been in days. I also found another part of me rolling its eyes while supressing a small smile. I am his, I thought, and hopefully he is mine.

I smiled at the floor with pink tinged cheeks. I laughed as I said, “You know how to turn a conversation around.”

He stepped ­­closer, caging me against a kitchen top and bar stool. His head closed in for my neck, inhaling and exhaling, sending cool shivers down my spine. “I just don’t want to be in the wrong state of mind come the afternoon. One thing my father always taught me when it came to werewolves and being an alpha was to sacrifice all for the wellbeing of the pack. In other words, I can’t let the full moon, or you, or him get in the way today.”

My hands clamped around his shoulders as his lips neared my neck. “As well as distractions from our mates, as tempting as they may be,” he whispered in between a small innocent kiss.

Dante’s arms tightened around my back in a close hug, our hearts beating in sync against one another as we thought about the worst and best of outcomes in silence.

Maybe it was the prospect that Dante might not return after this afternoon, that the hunters may actually succeed in destroying the Dimera and Bancroft packs that made us both so willing told be with each other, hold each other, and act like were close, when Dante to me still felt like a new boyfriend

The idea of losing Dante drove the animal inside me insane, already on edge because of the approaching full moon. My wolf wanted to be one with my mate, she wanted to never let go and protect what is hers. I couldn’t let that happen. I wasn’t familiar with being on four legs and we’d become a burden to Dante when he had more important things to deal with.

Instead I thought, as Dante’s gently held me, I’d settle for this.

Dante’s kisses were light and small, but slow and lingering. Agonisingly painful in the sense I wanted more and my wolf wouldn’t settle for less.

Involuntarily I found myself clinging onto Dante never wanting to let go. He felt like a wall that’d protect me for as long as I stood within his arms. “You’ll be fine,” Dante mumbled.

My eyes peeked open to stare into his own as his hand trawled up to my head and cusped my crown to pull my face closer to his. Just a small touch. He knew his boundaries right now and I knew mine.

A small smile appeared on his face as he nestled his head into the crook of my neck. “I can’t stop worrying,” I said.

He lifted me suddenly onto a bar stool positioned ideally behind me. I looked at him curiously and saw the same glint in his eyes that Austin had gained when it was close to the full moon. “Just forget… Even if it’s only for ten minutes,” he said quietly into my ear. Of course forgetting was easier said than done.

I felt one of my shoes slide off my feet and fall to the ground as we quietly stood there together, peacefully enjoying each other’s company. “I can’t thank you enough, Riley. For everything,” he said as he held me closer as if I’d crumble and disappear right there in front of him. I hid my face in his shirt as my cheeks began to warm.

As more than ten minutes passed, we realised our own thoughts and sorted our feelings through. Not a word was spoken, but we didn’t need to say much. Dante was here with me right now and that’s all I could bring myself to care for. I had to forget about the fact that he might not be with me tomorrow should something happen.

Dante hugged me tighter without saying much, over minutes relaxing until his arms became loose around my waist. He was tired, he was weak, and he could be doing with anything but going into a fight later that day. He had to though unless he was really willing to give up his world.

Dante’s tilted his head in my line of vision knocking me from my thoughts and before I could react, he planted a soft kiss on my lips, leaning into me ever so slightly. As he pulled away a sigh escaped his lips and said, “I’m sorry, Riley, and I love you.”

***

Dante got his serious head on as soon as we parted ways. He could be heard outside barking commands without a thought for anything else. He was ready for this, I knew that, and he was prepared to lose it all.

I marched up the stairs a little after our meeting in the kitchen, holding my head and heart. My heart fluttered at our little moment, but it was also in pain… But no pain worse than what Dante was bound to be feeling.

As I laid on my bed looking up at the blank ceiling, I tried to forget and push unimportant thoughts out my head. At a time like this my thoughts were nothing compared to the bigger issue. The hunters.

I could still hear Dante outside prepping his men, figures barely in double digits, to make sure they were ready to fight an army of hunters with weapons and force. Austin Dimera, his father, and his pack wolves would arrive to help out too, but a feeling nagged that this wasn’t enough; not when the hunters knew what to expect with years to prepare.

If the hunters were able to develop poisons to affect the werewolf ability and gene, I’m sure they had a few extra surprises to bring out and hit us with today.

I still couldn’t believe they’d had this planned out for so long; since before Dante was born when his father was new to power. A poison designed so specifically, that it would affect only those of a werewolf background and then slowly disable the shifting gene, hence the human-born children to two werewolf parents… They’d drank the water, and they’d successfully disabled their shifting gene that would have been passed down from parent to child.

The Bancroft issue had then made complete sense. Bancroft had been targeted specifically with a certain strain type of the poison to disable their wolves, carried out by Gary – I mean, who else could have done it?

Then there’s the other type of poison, leaked into both Dimera and Bancroft land – the disabling of werewolf powers on the already active wolves, and then if drank in high concentrations… death.

I remembered the father and son found by the stream not far from Dante’s house. We realised now what had been behind it. It should have been obvious. They’d drank directly from the main infection point; where the poison had initially been poured and consumed a lethal amount. Similar to Dante’s father, but they must have died instantly. Dante’s father had taken multiple hours. Dimera had similar incidents, but what we could all conclude was that this was no accident or coincidence.

They’d riled the werewolf world and now they’d have to fight us off. Did they really want to anger a bunch of werewolves when the full moon was so close? Territorial, pissed off wolves.

Dante was fighting for his people, for his family, for his mate. They were asking for an execution.

There was sudden shouting outside, but I already knew it was Dante training. It made me wonder if Austin was doing the same with his wolves… Would my father be in for the fight? Was he able to control his wolf like that yet? I knew I couldn’t – I had no say on if I transformed or not on a full moon, a mature wolf did. Like Dante, like Austin.

Therefore I was useless and a danger to each and every person if I did try and worm my way into the confrontation later today with the hunters. In mere hours we would be standing on the soft grass of Wolf Lake, surrounded by the beautiful trees, facing the glistening water, and as darkness would fall our wolves would respond to the moon. Hell would break loose before darkness falls, I was sure.

So as I cast my gaze down at Dante, fighting at the edge of the trees with a friend in practise, I prayed for the first time in my life; that if there is a god up there, please help us pull through.

***

Dante peered over his shoulder and caught my attention as we trekked through the trees. He called back saying, “Don’t do anything that’ll draw attention to you, Riley.”

I nodded slowly in understanding, surrounded by people I didn’t know and a chill in the air that set the scene for a horror movie. The water slowly lapped up onto small banks of the lake because of the tough wind. The sun was setting, half shrouded by trees in the distance.

“Let the girl be, Bancroft. She’s not important just now,” Mr. Dimera roared as he stood motionless beside his son in the distance.

I was glad Dante hadn’t left me at home with his mother and sister – he felt like I should be here with him, to see first-hand what we would have to deal with in years to come. I didn’t fight his decision, finding it almost exactly in line with my own thoughts. I wanted to be here, after all this was caused by essentially me.

Dante snarled at Mr. Dimera as he retreated closer to me and protectively grabbed my wrist

“Dante, it’s alright,” I tried to say.

Dimera hadn’t brought as many people as I’d anticipated. Dante was shocked too when all our men and very few women assembled before us amounting to a group of no more than ten. The people brought by Dimera combined into our own assembled a small group of thugs. I certainly wasn’t looking forward to the arrival of the hunters and seeing their small army in the distance facing off against our own.

Some of us had brought guns, but what use was a gun to an animal on four legs? Maybe for reassurance, I thought, as my eyes skimmed the faces of those at Wolf Lake. They looked scared but determined, reflecting exactly what Dante and I were beginning to feel.

“Can you smell any new presence?” someone asked.

Dante flinched at the question and laid eyes on who asked in the crowd. “Their use of poison has taken away my senses completely. I can’t even tell a human from a werewolf. I’m sorry,” he said.

Did he have to apologise for something that wasn’t his fault?

Austin snorted a laugh as he leaned back on his heels and folded his arms across his chest. “I still just so happen to have mines and I can quiet clearly tell you there are no hunters-.”

He was interrupted by a gunshot close by not shot by any of our men proving Austin wrong very quickly. I jumped in complete terror as a wash of fear poured over us all. “No hunters close by?” Dante asked with attitude, not in the mood to play games with Austin. I felt Dante’s hand tighten in on my own.

Figures began to emerge, giving me an extreme sense of déjà vu to the day with Hilary. I couldn’t quite believe it’d been months when it only felt like weeks. It’d been months since I held my human, naive beliefs that humans were the superior in this town of werewolves. Today Austin wouldn’t be here to save me from the enemy across the lake, today not only Austin but Dante and all of their packs would be here to save themselves, putting aside any conflicts they hold for each other. These hunters were sneaky and more lethal than they looked, and clearly a big threat.

I peered up at Dante who was looking straight back at me, a small unsure smile planted on his lips. His hand moved from mine up my arm and tightened painfully on my delicate skin as if I could be snatched away any second.

When I looked back up I realised they had all silently moved in. The hunters now stood before us, not a distance of five meters from the beginning of our group just on the small rocky shore of the lake. Our group subconsciously knitted closer together.

Dante looked down at his watch as his strong alpha façade fell over his face like a mask. “You’re late - I thought you of all people would turn up on time,” he shouted over at the new arrivals.

Kelly evolved from the group taking lead at the front and behind her I spotted the bright blonde head of Hillary. She was looking away into the sky not in the least interested, as you’d expect of a girl like her. I noticed, though, the lethal looking gun resting on her thigh. “On time, not on time, what are you going to do?” Kelly asked as she clicked the safety off her small pistol. It was a cheap looking gun, but from afar it looked like it had modifications that appeared more decorative than functional. I knew better, however, and guessed those modifications were for werewolf hunting.

She paused a few steps ahead of her group of approximately forty heavily armed people. “How long have I been waiting for this?” she asked.

Nobody dared answer on either side, but I felt the rage shaking through Dante that was no doubt daring him to do more than answer her. It didn’t help that the full moon was near, when he’d feel like he was losing all control of the rational human part of him that helped make proper decisions.

The sun was setting and as the clouds cleared the sunlight turned yellow and orange casting a glow over the clearing. Half of Kelly’s face lit up in colours than only accentuated her bad intentions - the smirk on her lips more prominent and the glint in her eyes stronger.

She raised her gun confidently, her arm completely steady. Dante shoved me behind him as subtly as he could, further and further out her sight.

“What, no Riley? There’s no fun if you don’t bring the bait,” Kelly said. Wait, what, bait?

I peeked over Dante’s shoulder and saw her scanning the crowd carefully. Her eyes suddenly landed on me and I gasped in shock.

Her hand holding the gun fell as she slapped her knee, laughing silently to herself. Her body racked with laughter. “This couldn’t go any better,” she said quietly.

Then another gunshot fired through the darkness, splitting our eardrums.

Silence followed, everyone tense and on edge include the hunters behind Kelly. Before any of us could react, a round of bullets came flying in a single direction just to the right of my body. Directly behind me a body slumped to the ground. Kelly stood watching, grinning from ear to ear holding her raised gun with a wisp of smoke travelling towards the sky.

The hunters behind her followed their leader and began to gather around her like human shields, their weapons poised, ready to kill. I saw the knives Dante had told me about, I saw the guns as we stared down their barrels. This was it.

It was all too sudden to explain in full detail. My eyes only caught snippets as things escalated in a moment. They came at us with battle cries. The sun was blinding our vision, and around me clothing fluttered to the ground in shreds as the wolves transformed onto all fours.  Where the humans once were, stood the wolves charging in return at the onslaught of hunters.

I sank further into Dante, unmoving between the bloodshed. His breathing was heavy in my ear as he took in the scene. Dante’s men focused on protecting him as they surrounded the two of us. “You’ll be ok,” Dante said.

Dante snuck me into the shadows of trees with the help of his men in amidst the slaughter making sure I was well and truly out of sight. “I’ll stay here with you until you transform with the moon – I can’t let you out of my sight and I’m not letting you stand in the middle of a fight as a human,” he said.

I was determined not to land on all fours this time though. It’d be beneficial to no one.

Over Dante’s shoulder I saw blood already tainting the green grass. As my eyes scanned for more, I met the body of a hunter laid strewn half in the lake, the entrails hanging from its side and the water streaked with blood around the corpse. I wished to myself he was the first and last, but I knew that was impossible. There’d be much more bloodshed before this was resolved.

Beside the body, a wolf and man fought. The knife danced in the man’s hand and sliced the wolf down the shoulder before the wolf could clamp its jaws on the hunter. The cries of the wolf were enough to let me know who’d won that fight. The hunter shoved the wolf off him lie it were nothing more than a sack writhing in pain.

I remembered suddenly that something was missing. Through the obscuring trees my eyes darted around frantically for Hillary or Kelly, but they were nowhere in sight – where in the world would they be if not in the fight? Dante suddenly grabbed my shoulder, forcing me to look at him. “Stop, Riley. Don’t do this now. Stay calm and stay out of sight,” he said as his hand on my shoulder forced me further away from the scene. I diverted my eyes.

“Go,” I said, managing to choke out only single words. Darkness began to set around us and the last of the sunlight created a halo effect around Dante’s head.

He shook his head in protest as he taken both my hands in his and looked down on them with a fearful expression. “I can’t,” he said.

I pulled out of his arms and wiped a tear. Behind us, the noise was so loud giving no clue to when this would end. I told him again to go but he continued to make excuses.  “I’ll be fine, I’ll stay here,” I reassured him. He didn’t look convinced.

Dante wrapped his arms around me as much as he could in a bone crushing hug. I felt useless. Helpless. Hopeless.

The cries of both hunter and wolf being murdered was enough to trigger new tears.

“I’ll right back,” Dante promised as he backed away, then flipped around and landed on all fours as a black wolf in split seconds. As he sprinted off into the main body of the fight there was no losing track of where he was.

I slipped behind a tree just as Dante would have liked and I observed as closely as I could.

The fighting didn’t fade as the seconds ticked by. I bunched my hands helplessly by my face, wincing at every blow, every blood curdling scream. A tear fell at every spilt drop of blood.

Gradually a tingling sensation began to course through me at the arrival of the moon. It was close. I hoped to god I could resist it, that I could do the impossible and not cause trouble.

As I looked back up again, a wolf transformed back into a human and began to convulse on the ground, blood spurting from a deep wound on his back. A man who stood over him, plunged a knife through his side causing a stream of blood to trickle from his waist onto the straw-like grass.

“Impressive, huh?” Someone asked. I could have missed the comment if not for the sensitivity to noise and touch that the moon brought with its arrival.

My neck cracked painfully as my head whipped in the direction of the voice. “Hilary,” I quietly said to myself as I observed the familiar girl approach me from behind in the shadows.

“The convulsions are caused by toxins creating an allergic-like reaction. We hired some chemists to do the work for us. It was successful,” she said as if I wanted to know their vile secrets.

This was our first time talking after knowing who she really was and this is what she chose to talk about. She had this planned from the start, I had no doubt about that, but really in the end all I wanted to know was why. Why me? “You used me,” I said, lacing my tone with as much venom as there was on those lethal weapons of theirs.

Hilary laughed to herself as she leaned against a tree, crossing her legs against it. She looked me up and down as if sizing me up. She didn’t find me threatening at all. “On holiday, we genuinely were friends. You’re a pretty cool girl, I give you that, Riley,” she said as she stalked to my side and leaned on a tree beside me as she continued on and said, “It was like a blessing when we found out you were from Mateo – it’d been a target of ours for years – one of the densest werewolf populations around, a town where the werewolf’s almost outweigh the humans.” She was nearly right, I thought. In a town of one thousand, we didn’t outweigh the humans by a long shot, but there were three packs living around it.

I kept a guard up as I looked around frantically for a sign of Dante. When I didn’t respond to her, she deepened her frown on her glossy pink lips and narrowed her eyes.

Something else caught my eye; sandy wolves were emerging from an edge just across the lake. They were Touren wolves. Kris himself appeared on two legs moments later bearing a serious expression that looked so foreign on a face like his as he screamed commands I couldn’t hear at the wolves behind him. They swept into the clearing like reinforcements immediately taking action.

Hilary was still talking, saying, “So yes, I had used you. To get a good feel of Mateo, to find out some information about the layout. I didn’t think it would come to much, though.” She looked at me, although I refused to look at her. It was unbelievable how her appearance could be so deceiving. She continued saying, “I didn’t intend for the wolves to come across us though, Riley. Thought we’d poisoned enough of them by that point so they’d never know I was there.”

I closed my eyes slowly and tried to take it all in. I tried not to let her words mean much but she just wouldn’t stop. “The poisons,” I said. “You’ve been poisoning the Bancroft’s since before either of us were born. You only recently infected the Dimera’s. So why did the Bancroft wolves sense hunters and the Dimera wolves not know a thing?” It was the final question I hadn’t quite got an answer for. The doctors had explained it as best as they could but nothing made total sense.

I studied her expression and after a few seconds she replied, “Simple. Surely you’ve figured out there are two poison types?” She asked. Yes, I thought. I knew that already. “Well, we used one poison on Bancroft – not Dimera – as a trial for a few decades to prevent any werewolf children. About a month before I arrived in Mateo we used the new one to stop the abilities in existing werewolves such as sense of smell and eventually your ability to transform. Seems more efficient to just kill you all. Seems we didn’t feed enough to Bancroft, but Dimera couldn’t smell a thing. Of course, this stuff wears off but don’t worry, we very recently fed them a new, stronger dose. Expect good things, Riley.”

That explained a lot of gaps, I thought. If one good thing came out of this, it was my new found knowledge about how they liked to play their games. It explained why the Dimera’s after all really didn’t know a thing about the hunters being in Mateo when Hilary was here. Despite how loose lipped and helpful she was in basically handing me hunter secrets, I still hated her. Why would I not?

She babbled on and on like she just couldn’t stop and said, “But you know, I’ve thought about this for a while; if you hadn’t met me, you wouldn’t have come across the wolves. Dante would be mate-less and Dimera wouldn’t have so many problems right now,” Hilary laughed, “So the way I see it; I’ve done good making friends with you. I consider this my first achievement in my career as a hunter.” She grinned in evil delight that just screamed her mother’s influence. “Too bad you became the hunted,” Hilary finally said.

I couldn’t hold the anger at bay any longer as an animalistic urge to claw her eyes out overcame me. I tried to suppress the urge and instead bore holes in the side of her head. “You really are something,” I sneered. The teeth in my mouth felt pointier than before, the nails on my hands elongated and sharper.

“Riley!” Austin called. I had to look twice just to make sure. He came towards us looking concerned, his usual perfect black hair was stuck to his head with the sweat that glistened over his face. Austin had obviously just changed back into human form and wore a dirty set of clothes full of rips and holes presumably someone else’s that they’d left behind after transforming. I screamed at him to go back, but he didn’t slow down.

“You were my first friend, though, Riley,” Hilary went on, ignoring the approaching barrel that was Austin’s body. “I’m just sorry we couldn’t have stayed friends,” she said.

I’d had enough. I got up from my position against the tree and strolled confidently towards her only five paces away. “This is getting old. Just go,” I demanded, “Stop with the mind games.”

Then out of the corner of my eye, I spotted a reflection against the last remnants of light. My head turned just as Austin tackled me to the ground taking me completely by surprise.

It happened quickly; in a flash of a second I was under the crushing weight of Austin as he lay choking. Above him, I saw Kelly. Like from the scene of a horror movie, blood began to pour from his mouth. Kelly had stabbed him.

Kelly’s eyes lit up in amusement. I could only just see her above us. “I was going for the alpha female but son of an alpha will do as well,” she said.

She smashed her foot into his barely conscious body pushing him off me

Austin rolled over painfully, letting me see the stab wound on the lower right of his chest entering through the back but not quite exiting through the front. Blood poured like there was an endless supply. I jumped to my knees and held his wound with my entire weight. He wouldn’t die. I couldn’t let him die. “What the hell are you doing, Austin? You didn’t need to do that!” I yelled at him, knowing he probably wouldn’t be aware I was talking to him. There was too much blood.

Austin didn’t seem to hear me, but pain was written all over his features. No. He didn’t need to do that!

He choked on his own breath, struggling to breathe. “She was going to hurt you, Riley. I couldn’t let that happen,” he suddenly replied as blood rolled down his chin. He spluttered for a few seconds after.

Suddenly I was torn from Austin’s side and strewn on the ground in a useless heap.

 “As much as I’d like to have another play date, I have somewhere I need to be,” Hilary said with a smile and innocently backed away following her mother in the distance. A burly man appeared and lifted a badly wounded Austin, who now lay unconscious on the ground. He wouldn’t make it if he continued to lose more blood.

“Austin!” I screamed helplessly. No one was around to help, no one was around to hear. I could barely hear myself over the noise at Wolf Lake just beyond the trees to my right. They were out of sight now. No one was here to see this unfold.

Kelly turned back on her heel just before she vanished from my sight ahead in the darkness. “Thanks,” she simply said before they were all gone. That’s all she needed to say before the werewolf instincts got the best of me.

I felt my bones crack emitting a pain I used to feed the anger of my wolf. My bones reformed visibly under the skin, settling into the reshaped sockets. My pathetic fear and useless anger fuelled the transformation to happen in less than a minute.

Then, it was over. The world enhanced and painted in a red haze of rage. My mind didn’t linger on the new sensations before instincts kicked in urging me to protect what was mine. No human intervention would change its mind.

Kill.

I started running for the tree line in the opposite direction of Austin and the hunters and broke out into the clearing. Darkness had fell completely but wolves and hunters still fought. Blood tainted every visible spot of grass, running in streams towards the bloodied lake from the strewn decapitated, sliced bodies.

Bite.

Howl.

I did in fact howl, catching Dante’s attention from across the lake which distracted him for only a fraction of a second. That was all it took though for Dante to be knocked on his side by a hunter who’d taken his chance.

Protect mate.

I weaved through bodies and through the shallow water like an entirely different person. I stood behind a man wielding a pistol. My large paw rose and swiped so hard down his back that it severed most of his neck as he fell to the ground, killed instantly. My human thoughts were protesting internally but they were quiet and dull, almost non-existent. My human knew this was wrong, my wolf thought this was great.

In a corner of the lake with no threat around, Dante began to turn into a human again. He reached down to grab the nearest garment of clothing that seemed to line the lake courtesy of the wolves and yelled, “I told you to stay, Riley. I told you!”

He was the one who said he’d stay with me, but he had failed to keep that promise himself… Even if I had been the one that told him to leave. His men needed him though!

My wolf faded out voluntarily, despite the moons calling. I sat there moments later bare and exposed, realising exactly what I had done and had no control of. I didn’t have time to feel guilty or sad about it though.

Dante walked a short distance before grabbing an oversized shirt. He threw it in my direction. As I put the shirt on, tears flowed like a waterfall mixing with the blood on my pale skin that wasn’t my own. Was it Austin’s or the hunter’s I’d just killed?

He peered behind us to check on the situation before crouching to my height and bluntly asking, “What happened?”

I couldn’t look at him.

Austin had been easily taken while trying to save me, the same Austin that liked to act as if he hated me. It made me realise, sitting there in the cold, dark, and dingy clearing that perhaps he hadn’t hated me as much as I thought. Of course he couldn’t. We’d been so close before.

Dante asked me again as I spluttered, my face coated with an ugly sheen of sweat. I suddenly felt very sick. “They have Austin,” I managed to say.

Dante rubbed my back comfortingly. My eyes slowly closed, reliving the moment. His blood was everywhere.

“Hillary found me; she was talking with me -.” I broke off for a shaky breath as I wiped away my tears from my cheek. “-she was trying to distract me as Kelly snuck up. Austin dived in the way just before Kelly pulled out a knife and stabbed Austin. They carried him away and I couldn’t do anything,” I wailed.

Dante got to his feet and pulled me up with him. Suddenly a look of curiosity overcame his face. He looked over the lake and made me look with him. “Over there, you see that?” he pointed to a corner of the lake where the hunters seemed to start moving towards. “The hunters are retreating.”

We both observed the sight before us. Bloodied, dead bodies from both sides tainting the lake edge, and there in the distance stood a congregation of the surviving hunters beginning their retreat.

“Why?” I asked between tears.

Dante’s forehead wrinkled in thought. “Because-,” he said as he tried to word his answer, “It seems they’ve got what they came for.”

 

 

 

 

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