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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7. Chapter 7

The night was relatively quiet for a house situated slap bang in the middle of the forest. It was early morning, maybe around 7 am.

I could have slept till midday, I could have slept till dinner but obviously that wasn’t to be as a deep rumble of voices shook my half-asleep body. I perched myself up on my elbows and lazily rubbed my eye with my free hand. What was that? I thought.

I could hear shouting. Who was arguing? I forgot for a minute that I was the guest and probably shouldn’t be putting my nose in places it shouldn’t be, but the voices were far too loud to ignore. Curiously, I began to investigate.

I opened my door silently and stepped out into the cold air of the empty second floor hall. It felt like someone had a window open. The breeze swept past me and caused a hundred Goosebumps to prickle on my arms. I tip-toed towards the top of stairs, following the sound of the voices.

Below me I spied the two sound sources and then suddenly heard Austin’s voice, saying, “What do you mean ‘it’s under control’?”

“I’ve got all the men I can on guard, no one can come in and out without being caught one way or another,” another voice said. Was that Austin’s father?

I heard a deep sigh. “How many men?” Austin asked.

“Fifty,” the other replied. “The others are either working or want nothing to do with it.”

“I want one hundred by the end of today! Bancroft could easily overcome 50,” Austin suddenly demanded, speaking what might as well have been a foreign language.

They were moving around down there, I thought, as I heard pacing footsteps. “That’s stupid! Not only would I risk a hundred of our men’s lives but I’d also be taking from their regular day to day life! They’d turn against us, Austin. You sure have a lot to learn. The pack always comes first!” The other responded, who I was now sure to be Mr. Dimera.

What was I listening to? I thought.

“I don’t care what they think of us. Without us they’re freaks in regular society! They’re up to something, why else would they be creeping about near our territory?”

Mr. Dimera sounded ticked off as he replied, “They won’t get near us – I won’t let it happen.”

Austin was growing louder, scaring my half asleep ears as he said, “Then do something now!”

Silence.

Austin’s father replied in a hushed tone. “I’m doing all I can.”

I slowly pushed myself down another step so I could see them clearer through the gap in the stair railing. Austin had his back to me. “Just get as many men as you can on patrol. If she is hurt like her father then I can’t be held accountable for who I hurt,” he said, breathing deeply. “It was a Bancroft who attacked him, I’m sure of it! I guess time will tell.”

The first thought that rushed to mind as his words connected, was he referring to me? And the second was why would he ever speak to his father like that?

I looked back up from deep thought to see them both staring up at me. I fell back in fright with a gasp.

“Are you ok?” Austin asked. They don’t seem to care if I happened to have overheard. It was obvious I had been listening in

I nodded and on sleeping legs tried to get up. I flashed an awkward smile before I continued down the rest of the stairs like I was welcome and wasn’t interrupting a thing. Suddenly I became self-conscious of Rose’s clothes on my body that I had to borrow just yesterday.

“I was informed about your father. If there’s anything you need, we’ll be willing to help,” Austin’s dad said. It all came back to me like a bad dream. I had completely forgotten about my own father fighting for his life in hospital.

Austin took a small step forward. Once again Austin looked as if he’d just rolled out of bed, but he looked wide awake. “How are you coping?” He asked, his voice was soft, warm and welcoming. It contrasted the anger he had shown his father a mere few minutes ago. What scared me most was his unpredictability.

“Well I was fine until I remembered about it...” I said, probably sounding a little selfish and unappreciative of their thoughts.

Austin nodded, understanding what I meant. “Sorry, we’ll change subject.”

Austin’s father retreated from the room to escape Austin and his conversation. I observed Austin who seemed too distracted by his father as if there was still something to be said.

I wanted to ask him if they didn’t get along very well. What was their relationship like? But I didn’t. Now wasn’t the time.

Austin looked down at me and smiled. “You mind if we do something today? I have something I’d like to show you.”

I tilted my head to the side in curiosity. It was god knows what time in the morning which made me wonder why he was up at all. “Depends what it is,” I said.

“It’s a surprise, but don’t freak out. We need to go out there,” he said, gesturing towards the forest out the window. At the mention of the forest I gathered visions of the lake and what lurked around it. I wasn’t keen on facing that anytime soon. There wasn’t even daylight yet.

I gave him a look that said he was probably the craziest person I’d ever met. “You have to be kidding, back into the forest after all that’s happened?” I laughed. “You’re crazy.”

“The wolves are harmless.  I just want to show you they aren’t a threat. Remember when you said all you needed were a few bullets and a gun and the wolves would be dealt with? I want to show you differently. The wolves aren’t what you should be afraid of...” He said, telling me off for things I said when I was under pressure and not in my right mind.

Apart from the hikers, all the wolf encounters had a connection around me and I suppose loosely around the Dimera’s – if the fact it was Austin who was always around to help me when anything happened had anything to do with it. Hilary and the wolf, the wolf outside my window, and now my father fighting for his life attacked by what I assumed to be the same wolf as the one that’d been stalking me. If that wasn’t suspicious, I didn’t know what was.

“You said not to go near the forest!” I said, using his own rules against him.

He explained himself and said, “I’m here, and if something bad happens I’ll still be here.”

I didn’t want to trust those deep green eyes of his that seemed so harmless that they couldn’t even squash a bug on purpose, but I knew deep down there was more than that, Austin did indeed have a bad side that I’d yet to see to the full potential of. Those moments of him I wasn’t supposed to see spoke more than any words that came from his lips.

I nodded slowly, agreeing to his absurd suggestion. His smile lit up his entire face. “Great, go upstairs and change and I’ll meet you down here in ten.”

***

Not ten but fifteen minutes later I gently crept down the stairs in some clothes lent to me by Rose and was met with the front door. Without having to try, my brain thought out ways to escape, ways to avoid going out with Austin. Most of which involved complex expeditions through the forest and I wasn’t doing that alone. I was trapped.

I slowly tip-toed to the door thinking who cares, I might as well try my luck. Confirmation of my failure rang clear when I heard his voice behind me just as I laid my hand on the handle. “You’re coming with me even if I have to drag you,” he said.

My cheeks burned bright red as I turned to face him. “You can’t force me,” I said.

I stared him directly in the eyes as a challenge. “Want to bet on it?” he asked. His face was smug knowing fine well I wouldn’t be able to escape. He could carry me away if he wanted. I could imagine him swiping me off my feet and carry me kicking and screaming into the forest. Austin was capable of that.

I didn’t feel the humour and felt myself move involuntarily towards the wall. The playful look in his eyes dimmed as if he took the small action to heart. “You really don’t want to go?” Austin questioned, finally getting the idea.

I looked down and said, “I’m just scared.”

He followed my footsteps until he stood inches away from me. Austin looked down from his towering height and I began to feel flustered. “I will never let anyone hurt you,” he said. Okay, I thought as I began to feel embarrassed, it’s far too early for this.

His hand outstretched towards me and warily I accepted it before he pulled me gently through the house and out the already open backdoor. There wasn’t much of a backyard before it became an onslaught of tree’s attacking our senses. I breathed in the scent of the autumn pine needles and I suddenly felt entirely relaxed. Austin peered over his shoulder and grinned when he laid eyes on my face. “You like it?” He asked.

I nodded quickly without thinking before going back to surveying the area. The sky was blocked by the heavy trees keeping it as dark as it might have been in the middle of the night. I felt the cool wind rip through the branches and it curled around my body before whisking away again. “Mind your step,” Austin whispered but he realised I was only half paying attention and grabbed me by the waist, lifting me over the slight abrupt rise in ground. I gasped before gathering myself together again. I thanked him silently.

“How long till we’re there?” I suddenly asked.

His face was the happiest I’d seen it before. His black hair was smoothed to one side of his head by the wind so his face was in clear view. I saw his lips were upturned and his eyes sparkled. “Not long now,” he replied.

There didn’t seem to be a path beneath us but Austin appeared to know the way. I put my full trust in him.

It turned out we weren’t nearly there because after what seemed like forever, he realised I actually was struggling to walk. “You don’t walk much, do you?” He said out of the blue.

“Excuse me, it’s not even eight AM,” I said, making excuses for myself. I tried to make humour of the situation, but being out here when it was barely light out made everything that bit scarier.

Austin laughed. “I promise you, nearly there.”

I muttered in frustration and then said, “You said that half an hour ago.”

Austin tugged my hand gently as he had to drag me up another rise in the uneven ground. “Five more minutes, I swear.”

For the next five minutes I silently walked close to Austin. The trees began to thin out as we went on and I saw more light ahead - a clearing in the forest. Austin picked up the pace and we broke free of the trees.

A mild excitement had appeared on our way here, but when I realised exactly where we were… Exactly where he’d taken me. There it was in front of us, the lake. Was he crazy?

He strolled off into the clearing and peered up and around him like it was some amazing sight. He looked back expectantly but I couldn’t control the fear that sept into my blood. “Why are we here, Austin? I thought you had something to show me.”

It wasn’t just the fact it was Lake Mateo, it was also the fact it’d taken us forever to get here when, really, Lake Mateo was not five minutes away from his home. Was taking the long way round a joke to him?

“I do,” he said as he slipped closer to me.

“Why here?” I asked. My head snapped from one direction to another, waiting for the black wolves to attack like they had that night, like they had my father and many others.

“Why not here?” He countered.

I didn’t feel like explaining it for the hundredth time running. Instead I backed away into the trees – which in theory wasn’t the smartest of moves. They were more likely to get me in there than they were out here.

His face darkened at my reaction. I only cowered more. “Let's be rational,” he said, “what’s safer, the forest or Lake Mateo?”

Realising he was in fact right, I stepped closer to him and away from the darkened tree line. I could only wonder how insensitive he could get though, I was nearly attacked here if he remembered right. These forests weren’t a place I wanted to be.

In the daylight I realised the lake wasn’t as big as I’d first guessed. It was beautiful, I had to admit. I couldn’t quite understand why I’d never been here often before. “Why is no one else about?” I asked thinking it obvious for other people to be around.

“What happened to your father and the hikers has scared everyone off, and even if that hadn’t happened hardly anyone ever visited. The occasional hill walker,” He explained before he sat down on the water’s edge. “I came here a lot as a kid and no one was ever around.”

I still felt too wary to sit down beside him, right in the open. If only I’d never met Hillary… If I had never met her, I bet I wouldn’t be here right at this second with Austin. I wouldn’t have ever dared talk with him.

Austin stood after a few minutes of awkward silence like he was expecting something. “Any second,” he mumbled before he came quickly to my side and put an arm around my shoulder and gave me a reassuring squeeze.

At the other side of the lake, much like when I was with Hilary, a small shape appeared. “It’s here,” Austin said. My body began to tremble violently before I could even see the details of the wolf’s face. I knew exactly what it was.

“Why did you bring me here?” I asked.

He tried to pull me towards the slowly approaching animal but I was having none of it. “I already told you,” Austin explained.

“You said you wanted to show me how harmless the wolves were, you didn’t say you were going to actually make one come near us,” I said in a panic. I found myself unable to move just like that night at the lake with Hilary. It was going to pounce and hurt us!

“I’m not making it,” he told me, but that made it worse. He couldn’t control it – it was a wild animal!

He managed to take me forward a few steps, but I was all too aware of the small gap left between us and the wolf. He took a hold of both hands from my side as if to stop me running away. “It won’t hurt us?” I questioned.

The wolf looked considerably smaller than the ones I’d seen in the previous days; it was a sandy shade of blonde with dark patches of grey. This animal looked like any other wolf I’d encountered over my lifetime, and nothing like the smarter more deadly creatures that night. It was nothing like the others I’d seen that were a terrifyingly deep shade of midnight black and foaming at the mouth, snarling as they crept closer.

The animal before us suddenly got down on its front paws, alerting me that it might just pounce and attack. As my heart rate quickened, the wolf laid down its other half of its body and laid its head on its paws. It stayed completely still.

I took a step back as Austin dropped my hand and moved towards the wolf, crouching down beside it to run his hands through its fur. Its thick fur was long and wiry. He looked up at me and asked, “Are you going to touch him?”

I couldn’t say anything to that, though, because if it weren’t for the events of the past few days I very well might have. I looked over the seemingly harmless animal slowly and thought, no - this wolf couldn’t have been responsible for the deaths, nor any animal like it. What wolves were hurting humans then?

I didn’t want to touch the wolf though – not now, anyway. Austin got the point and got up back to his feet and smiled at the animal like it was more than just a wild wolf. He smiled like it understood him and he understood it. The animal followed his lead and got up as well, turning in the opposite direction and began to run away.

“Animals just aren’t supposed to be that... tame,” I mumbled, “Animals don’t trust humans like that.” Of course they didn’t! It was natural for animals to be wary of humans, I thought.

He paused to think about his reply, and probably many several ways to word it that wouldn’t make it sound strange. I felt guilty suddenly for the effort he put in to help me understand. “If they trust you, then they’ll treat you like one of their own. They’ll trust you if you don’t pose a threat,” He replied. “Still want to get your gun?”

How could anyone shoot such an innocent animal like that? I saw what Austin meant now, but that didn’t mean they were all good. Even then, I wouldn’t let them all be killed for the sake of catching one bad egg. I shook my head.

“Good,” he said before he snatched up one of my hands as if he was getting ready to head back to his house.

“I don’t want to leave just yet,” I told him. I didn’t feel scared now. The grass beneath my feet was begging me to stay and the silence in the air was telling me not to go. It didn’t feel so threatening now and the Dimera house was the last place I wanted to be.

He laughed quietly to himself. “Alright,” he said, joining me down on the water edge where we both sat for a few moments.

I lay back and avoided the rising suns glare in my eyes. The wolf was amazing, it really was. I didn’t want to touch it, but it told me there was something more going on, not just random animal attacks. Austin seemed hell-bent on proving to me the animals were tame and human-friendly. He’d shown me well.

I sat up slightly and peered across the lake and saw Austin knee deep in water. He shown off his muscular back as he thrown random pebbles into the lake. He was not at all what I expected.

 

 

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