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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5. Chapter 5

Our school trip into the forest wasn’t cancelled despite the recent attacks and that didn’t seem to surprise anyone but me. My class and I stood around the base of the hill waiting for everyone to gather and prepare for the journey up. It felt stupid to go on this trip considering what had happened. It was clear the forests were dangerous right now. Of course, though, I was only seen as paranoid if I tried to explain myself.

I grumbled to Gina as we set out on our way but she didn’t understand me either and said loudly, “If it was that dangerous, why is the school still allowing everyone who signed up to go? If you don’t want to come anymore, just go back home and hang out with Bianca.” Gina was right, why would the school allow it if it was that dangerous… Maybe they’d been updated about the situation and the animals had been caught… Maybe they just didn’t care?

Austin warned I should stay out of the forest day and night. Never go inside. Ever. Here I was now, though…     

I looked over the top of the smaller students and my vision was blocked by the taller. I spotted Austin because he was nearby. He was on this trip too, I reminded myself. He obviously didn’t heed his own advice. Why should I listen to him?

Who cares what he thinks, I found myself thinking, if I want to go on this hiking trip, I’m going. I found myself very quickly, though, not wanting to be here at all.

The teacher then stumbled through the bodies to the front which we weren’t able to see, coughing loudly to get our attentions. We listened rather than watched. “Right, immediately after we stop talking, we’ll get on our way. You all should know your assigned group. Once you’re up there, pick one member to go get fire wood. Set up your campfire and enjoy the rest of the day,” He called. I didn’t see the point in this trip but apparently it counted for extra credit and that’s all that mattered. I needed it bad, but it was a Saturday and I enjoyed sitting in my room on the internet on Saturdays. On any other school day I would have been fine with this.

The groups of students from various year groups were led to the beginning of the trail through the forest and seconds later we were on our way. I couldn’t say I felt safer surrounded by my friends but I made sure to cling close to Gina and Liam’s side anyway. “Don’t be so stupid, Riley!” Gina yelled at one point, “You’re almost as bad as Bianca!” I created a small distance between us.

I looked away apologetically. “Sorry,” I muttered.

She looked disappointed but otherwise didn’t have anything else to say. She stormed ahead leaving me to myself. Thankfully this was only a daytrip.

It wasn’t dark but the tree’s made it seem like it as their powerful presence loomed over us. I stumbled over my own feet more than a few times but soon enough we could see the peak area ahead, cleared and filled with benches and other such stuff we might have needed. I found myself sprinting ahead of my classmates to claim the best spot.

Previous visitors to the site had left their own setups around – including benches made from old timber and logs. I easily claimed one for my small group consisting only of Gina, Liam, and me.

“Hey, Riley, you’re getting firewood,” Gina called as she finally decided to join us. She took her seat beside Liam.

I mumbled a few words under my breath already feeling exhausted. “But Gina! I’m so tired,” I cried.

I waited a few seconds but to no avail it was as if she hadn’t heard me. I got up with a small strop and began to trudge around the campsite in search of some ‘firewood’. I began by picking up the smaller dry twigs that led me in a path away from the large crowd of students. The further I went, the less of them I could hear.

I could still sense the group in the distance so I wasn’t terribly concerned. Gently, behind me in the middle of retrieving firewood, a hand laid on my shoulder. 

I spun around in fright, my hand hitting a hard body to push whoever it was away. My eyes adjusted to the light and there before me like I should have anticipated was Austin. He widened his eyes in surprise. “Whoa, calm down. It’s only me,” He said whilst raising both hands in surrender.

My lungs forced a breath through my lips in surprise. Laying a hand over my heart to calm it down, I felt thankful it was only him.

I regained my breath for a few seconds before looking up at him from under my eyelashes. My nostrils flared in anger. “What are you doing sneaking up on me?” I finally asked.

Austin didn’t react and instead said, “We need to talk.” Getting to the point quickly.

I kicked a twig in frustration, skidding off the ground sending a jolt up my hurt leg. I grimaced in pain, but quickly wiped over it and put on my best poker face. “What is there to say?” So much for a good mood, I thought.

Austin paused as his eyes slid down my leg as if he knew it was hurting. He shook his head. “Do you remember what I said about the forest?” He asked impatiently, “You stay out of it! You don’t go anywhere near it!”

I choked a laugh, more to annoy him than anything else. I didn’t find this funny in the slightest. “Why are you here if you think it’s so dangerous?” I asked, crossing my arms and leaning back to stare up at him, “I mean, it’s a bit hypocritical of you.”

He stood completely still but if looks could kill... “Riley, the wolves don’t care about anyone else right now apart from you. You are the only one in danger here,” he said cryptically.

Now that was laughable. “What are you talking about, the wolves don’t care who their next meal is!” I replied, adjoined by a small laugh. “I’m pretty sure an Austin tastes similar to a Riley.”

He shook his head – I wasn’t sure if he too found it funny or if he was just disappointed. I’d put my money on the latter. “There’s a lot more you don’t know anything about. Can’t you just take my advice and get on with it?” He asked.

I found my hands working their way up to my head as I rolled my eyes and said, “Austin, I don’t know what you’re talking about but it doesn’t sound even remotely similar to what I’m talking about! I know perfectly fine how to deal with the wolves and that’s with a gun and a few bullets. That’ll surely sort them out.” I turned sharply before he could get anything into the conversation and stop me from leaving. I stormed off in front of him but he grabbed my shoulder before I got out of his reach.

“Don’t even think about it,” He whispered dangerously, so close to my ear that I could feel his voice.

I peered back over my shoulder to look at him and said, “They’ll kill again. They need to be dealt with before they deal with us.” I dared him with my eyes to challenge what I said. He knew they could kill again too.

He didn’t move an inch and instead seemed to try and calm down. He shut his eyes for a fraction of a second and when he reopened them, he seemed to take a new approach. “They can’t be dealt with by a gun. Trust me; they’ll be gone before you know it. Just let nature take its course,” he replied, saying a pretty similar thing to what his father had told my dad at dinner.

“Nature operates on a hierarchy. Right now I don’t feel like humans are at the top of that hierarchy, or at least not in this town,” I told him.

Austin let go of my arm and backed off in the opposite direction as if he were about to leave. “Humans have never been and never will be at the top,” he said.

He disappeared within a blink of an eye in true Austin fashion, not giving me a moment more to ask more questions or at least about where he was going. Just gone. Even though Austin was out of my sight I was sure I wasn’t out of his.

I gathered my thoughts as well as a few measly twigs and larger sticks in my arms as the firewood I was supposed to have been collecting. I began to walk back, guessing I was going in the right direction. Easily enough, I found my way back while following the rowdy voices of students.

I sat down beside my group - Gina and Liam were too involved with each other to say a word when I dumped my collection by their feet. The teacher seemed to notice the lack of progress before I could tell them off myself. “Hey, you! Is this all you could do while your firewood collector was gone? And you! We don’t appreciate lazy team members!” The geography teacher scolded us all at once. “I can just take away the extra credit if you aren’t going to take this trip seriously?” He held a stick in his hand, shaking it at us once for every word.

“Sorry,” Gina apologised. I knew she wasn’t sorry – it just wasn’t in her character to be sorry.

“I don’t want to hear it. Get your camp fire lit and then I’ll decide on what to do with that extra credit. For all of you.” He stalked off, grumbling under his breath making various comments. His ears were bright red in frustration, clearly not liking this school trip any more than us.

Gina glared my way once he was out of earshot and sight and said, “You couldn’t have done your job properly for once?” I knew this was coming. She had such a short temper and just loved to twist the blame.

“And you couldn’t have got up and helped me out?” She curled her lip at the comment and got up before stalking away in the same direction as the teacher. She peered over her shoulder just the once to make sure I knew she was angry.

I knew fine well when she came back she’d be happy again though. It was always like that.

Liam sat himself on the ground, unaffected by the arguments and used the log he once was sitting on as a back rest. I began to pile the wood up into a neat bundle ready to be lit.

A shadow suddenly fell over me and blocked out the high sun. In front of me a pile of sticks and twigs were dropped by my feet crashing into the tee-pee like structure of firewood I’d assembled causing it to topple and flatten under the larger one. I frowned, ready to scold Gina who clearly hadn’t cooled off.

Instead of Gina, though, it was Austin. Again. “We had some spare firewood. Here, take it,” Austin mumbled, sounding like an entirely different person to the Austin I’d encountered while collecting my own firewood. Of course he’d have to act a certain way if other people were around. He frowned to himself and headed off again.

Liam peered off after him and screwed his face up. A confused look etched onto his face when he couldn’t put the dots together. “What was that all about? Since when have you been speaking to Austin Dimera?” He asked.

“Our parents know each other,” I answered with a shrug, finding that the easiest thing to say at that moment in time. It wasn’t untrue, either.

He shook his head before returning to what he was doing, muttering quietly under his breath with the bitter taste of disapproval balancing on his tongue. Gina returned minutes later and immediately he brightened up. Liam didn’t bother mentioning Austin to Gina.

Once Gina was done doing her own work, she turned to me still looking rather angry and produced a match to ignite the fire. I accepted it off her silently, assuming she’d received it from the teacher, and held it towards the large disorganised pile of sticks that’d I’d given up on.

As the flame flickered and tried to die out, I grabbed handfuls of dead grass and sprinkled it over the open flame that quickly regained its strength. Problem solved, I thought as it began to grow. I noticed around me others were at a similar stage.

Later into the day we began to eat lunch. Classmates were running around the central campfire having fun like most teenagers would. In the midst of everyone laughing, a loud and crystal clear howl ripped through the forest.

Everyone quietened down at the noise and retreated outwards towards their respective group. It seemed no one had quite forgotten the events of recent days. It made me feel at least a little more comforted in knowing I wasn’t the only one concerned

“It’s just an animal, they won’t come near you,” A teacher reminded us. Taking their word like the word of god, most of the students got over it. More of them got back to what they were doing. I, however, didn’t.

Somehow it felt like something was going to go horribly wrong.

Hours later the sky had begun its fade to dark. By the time we’d packed our stuff and set out down the same trail, I had very short stubbed finger nails. Gina and Liam ignored me completely, oozing with sympathy.

I was mad to have put myself forward for this trip. I had to keep reminding myself – it’s nearly over, it’s nearly over.

I peered over my shoulder and saw Austin standing close behind me, but if he noticed my gaze, he gave no hint.

When we reached the bottom of the trail, the main road immediately came into view. Cars filled the small dirt track opposite a residential street I’d find myself walking on to get home. I knew my parents wouldn’t be here to pick me up.

As I reach the sidewalk, Austin brushed past on his way to his mother who I saw just ahead in the familiar car and said, “See you later, Riley.” For a moment I had to pause to make sure it was really me he was speaking to.

I had to walk past their car to get home and curiously glanced inside. There they sat inside the shiny silver vehicle chatting to one another about something I couldn’t get hint of. Rose started up the car and quickly, they set off in the opposite direction.

About half an hour later I was standing on the corner of my street and rounded the last path onto my street. My eyes snapped to my house for the first time this afternoon, crying with delight to almost be back. Curiously however, I spotted the sheriff’s car in the drive and several unfamiliar unmarked cars on the road. Had we invited the sheriff to dinner tonight?

I slowed down as I warily approach. This didn’t feel right - something must have been wrong. I began to fiddle with my hands and my approach slowed down as I tried to figure it out myself. There was no reason for us to invite the sheriff to dinner.

I stepped up the porch steps and raised my hand to knock. It somehow didn’t feel right to just walk in like any other day.

My mother answered the door a few seconds later. I immediately took in her pale skin, patchy under her eyes and tears streaming down her face. I couldn’t move as she reached out and pulled me into her arms.

All sorts of thoughts ran through my mind. “Mom, what’s happened?” I asked as I pulled out of her arms and looked around behind her. There the sheriff stood, his hat in his hands. That of course didn’t mean anything good.

“Honey, it’s your father. He’s been attacked.”

The world froze. I couldn’t hear anything but my mother’s cries. “What? What attacked him?” I asked. My hands found my mom’s as my mind wandered to the worst. I already knew the answers. I already knew what happened. “Mom!” I yelled again.

My mom shook her head and pitifully wrapped her arms around herself. “Mom! What’s happened to him?” I asked again in absolute terror.

“The wolves, honey,” she replied, “They got him.”

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