Wolves of Mateo: Wolf Moon

Austin was taken by the hunters by the banks of Wolf Lake - deep in the forests of Mateo, Wyoming. Searching for him is Riley and Dante - his closest friends yet worst enemies. They both have very little time to save him from what's likely to come - a sacrifice for the Wolf Moon - a hunter legend engrained in their traditions. Trying to save their friend is only part of the deal, as new enemies emerge threatening the whole balance of things back home as both Riley and Dante set on a trail out of state in Colorado before they realise the real threat is oozing out from within. A new chapter unfolds. BOOK TWO IN WOLVES OF MATEO DUOLOGY.

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1. Chapter 1

The grass crunched like it always did as I tread the yard and wandered in circles. Again and again and again. The birds chirped peacefully, the wind tore through the forest just off from my yard, and in the background I could hear my mom in the kitchen.

All that registered was cold. Very cold.

“Honey, the food is ready,” my mom called. I didn’t want to go inside. Being outside was like my only connection to Dante, and that’s why I found myself sneaking out at night to be in the forest as if Dante would sense my presence, feel guilty, and come get me.

It sounded stupid, beyond stupid in fact. As the weeks grew into months, the longing to see Dante had reached new ridiculous levels. I was stuck here, I thought. I was too terrified of seeking out Dante or anyone else in fear of putting a foot wrong and hurting someone else. All I could do was stay put. They’d left me here and forgotten about me. They must have a reason.

Turning around robotically, I followed the smell of eggs and bacon into the house; my mother had been the best mother she could have since I’d returned home. Maybe that note I’d left her had brought her back to reality. She didn’t ask questions, and I didn’t offer answers.

She didn’t know what had happened between my leaving the house for a few days as she lay drunkenly on the couch and the day I’d returned home a completely different and considerably more depressed person. My mom didn’t seem like she even wanted to know after all that’d happened.

Mom pulled my chair out for me and sat me down by forcing me into the seat, her hands clamped over my shoulders. “Riley, is everything alright?” She asked suddenly.

I looked up from under my bird’s nest of hair that I hadn’t bothered to groom in days. “Everything’s fine.”

But everything wasn’t fine; every little thing that occurred on a daily basis would remind me of what I was, what had happened, and what was going to happen. Austin was gone – presumably dead, Dante had abandoned me, Dad was living a new life, and I had no one to turn to.

A month had passed and with that I had no connection with anything remotely related to the fight at Wolf Lake or the people involved; everyone was avoiding me. Dante had walked me back home the day after the fight, and we hadn’t seen each other since.

The shock at the time had prevented asking questions, but it was also the shock that rendered me useless and unable to prod. Maybe if I were a stronger person, I’d have asked him what would happen next before he left me alone to my own devices. I supposed he wouldn’t have left me if there was still danger, that he must have had reasons. But then I reasoned if there was no danger he still didn’t have to avoid me.

Back to square one.

I turned my head to the window and peered on outside and then wondered, what was happening with both Bancroft and Dimera packs right now?

Was Dante even thinking of me? It was impossible for me to not think about him.

Why didn’t I run, why didn’t I run as fast as I could and find them for myself instead of waiting for them to find me? Something told me that I was waiting for a reason and aside from that reason I was waiting to stay safe and out of everyone’s way.

As my mother laid her cutlery onto the kitchen table, she sighed “You aren’t eating, you’re refusing to attend school, you sneak out at night, and your attitude stinks. Who have you gotten involved with, Riley?”

My mother may have not asked many questions regarding what happened, but she wasn’t shy in making presumptions. “Nobody,” I replied quietly as I let my face fall into my arms on the table.

“I’m not your mother for nothing. I can tell when something isn’t right, don’t treat me like I’m stupid.” Mom got up from her seat and put her already cleared dishes in the sink. “Is it about dad?” she asked quietly.

Another thing that plagued my conscience; dad was alive and I was the only person in that moment with the ability to tell mother or not, all the while she presumed her disappearing husband dead. No body, no funeral, no funeral meant no closure. She thought about him too, and I could tell.

I answered truthfully, “No, it’s not about father.” Internally, I replied - It was about my so-called mate, the guy I could honestly say I loved enough that it scared me, and it was also about the hunters and Austin– the people who were doing a good job at ruining my life. It was about how I was an outsider in their world despite being an outsider in the human’s too. I felt like I had nowhere to go, no one to talk to.

If I had the guts, I’d march up into pack territory and demand answers. But I didn’t have those guts.

“Riley, we’re all worried about you.”

We? Everyone at school had essentially forgotten about me since my father died and I’d taken a break from school. My mother was worried, sure, but she was more frustrated than anything else. The local officers who had been around my mom since my dad’s apparent death didn’t like me much either. Anyone who visited the house muttered a hello but otherwise ignored me.

In Mateo, population being less than one thousand, only one person genuinely cared, and that was my mom.

“Mom, don’t,” I tried to tell her.

She leaned on her hip whilst dragging a hand down her face. “Next week you’re returning to school, and if that doesn’t change anything then I’m taking you to the doctors.”

So they can put me on anti-depressants, I thought? On pills that would knock me into some better state?

Even if I was going to let that happen, it wouldn’t work on a werewolf. Just like how I was coming to realise pain killers were less effective and nearly everything else I tried taking. When I turned into a wolf, all medication became useless.

“Mom-,” I tried again, but she cut in.

Mom took a step forward and laid her hand on my shoulder. “A fresh appeal has been released so if your father is still with us, he will be found,” she said as if she genuinely thought that’s why I was upset. I could picture it right then – my father sitting in the Dimera house, tucking into breakfast as he poured his milk from a carton with his face on it.

He wouldn’t be found. He’d be living less than a mile away, completely over his wife and probably uninterested in his daughter.

A felt a tear slip down my cheek. I’d held it all together so well in front of my mom but right then it all seemed to fall apart. “Just let it all out,” my mom insisted as I took several deep breaths.

I had let it out. Every night, sitting alone in between the trees where it was impossibly darker and deserted so no one would hear or see. I’d let it all out, all my worries, all my stress. I couldn’t ask of her to understand something I wasn’t telling, but all I wanted was for my mom to leave me alone to deal with it myself. Leave me to it until Dante came back for the girl who was ruining everyone’s life, then I’d just simply disappear.

I held back the tears with that last thought. Her hand moved softly with the knotted flow of my hair down my back. "What's happening to you, Riley?" she dragged a chair from behind her blindly to my side. Sitting down, she buried her head into my shoulder and mumbled what she thought were comforting words. I appreciated the effort. "I'll help you, just like how you helped me."

I hadn't helped her a bit; I played the role of rebellious daughter and decided to leave her to it. I was the selfish daughter, I was the unappreciative daughter, and I surely wasn't the helpful daughter. I didn't deserve to be anyone’s daughter.

I couldn’t live a normal life after everything that had happened, not now. They dragged me into it, and I may have went without a fight, but they can't drag me out without one.

I watched Austin put his life on the line for a girl people thought he hated; I thought he hated me too. Then reality set in as I watched him being dragged away, while I lay there like a useless sack of potatoes.

I owed Austin the effort of finding him safe and sound, even if that means risking the life he saved. Even if that meant only finding his body having been with the hunters for over a month now, assuming he hadn’t been found already.

That was an angering thought - that Austin may already be safe and sound but I simply hadn’t been told. I’d have been living with such guilt even when I didn’t have to.

I owed Dante nothing if he thought shoving me off into mortal exile would sort me out.

I sat back and fiddled with my hands. I could go outside and run off some steam on four legs if my mom would let me leave, I thought. I’d now found it was a lot easier but still hard to transform even without the full moon, but I still couldn’t fully resist transforming on the full moon itself.

Since the fight at Wolf Lake I'd encountered two full moons and I'd become stronger. If I was taken back into the werewolf community, maybe I could pretend to be a full-blooded werewolf, not a weak bitten one. Maybe I wouldn’t stand out like a sore thumb.

Mom got up and with her she took the empty cups, leaving my food in front of me, untouched. "Eat it, Riley. I can take the attitude, I can take the no-school thing, heck, I can even take the disappearing at night thing, but I can't watch you waste away,” she said gently.

My mom dumped the dishes in the sink, and then she left.

***

Entering the tree line just beyond my house much later that day, I thought about being a werewolf but something in the back of my head stopped me from transforming - my thoughts told me I couldn't do this forever, I couldn't literally run out my feelings until I was too physically exhausted to care.

I had to be more than that.

Backed up against a tree, hidden amongst the dark and protected by the shrubs and leafs. Nobody would approach me, disturb me, or ask any questions. Me, versus the dirt.

As my arms wrapped around my legs, tucked tight against my body, I felt safe but lost. Time passed too slowly.

"I've tried to stay away," a voice called out in a direction I couldn’t decipher. My head whipped around at the sound of Dante's voice. Did I crave his presence so much that I imagined it?

"I tried to keep my distance,” it said again. I stood as if I were on a twisted spring, but the darkness brought by the thickness of the trees rendered my eyesight completely and utterly useless. I couldn't imagine a voice as real as this.

"But each and every time I found myself coming back to you." A dark spot emerged, and then I saw his distinctive outline. "Now I realise we should be doing this together,” Dante said, and this time I could see the word coming from his lips.

"Dante!" I screamed as his face became visible. His cheeks were sunken and his eyes sad. His hair had grown longer.

He opened and closed his mouth for a few seconds as he chose what to say. "Riley, I’m so sorry,” he said gently. “I thought being away from me would help. I thought it would help you… But I can’t stay away.”

Unlike the day he dropped me home, I wasn’t so shocked that I didn’t know what I wanted to say. I knew exactly what I wanted to say and took those few steps closer so he could see my anger crystal clear. "You left me without a word, Dante,” I said harshly.

Dante tried to smile for a moment as if he thought he could get away with the pain he’d inflicted. "If you felt that bad, you could have visited any time," he reasoned. We both knew I wouldn't be welcome if I appeared so suddenly. My anger rose ever so slightly at the suggestion that my pain was my own fault. It wasn’t. It wasn’t my fault at all. "I'm sorry,” he said.

He laid a hand gently on my shoulder, but his touch did nothing. When we first met I felt a buzz, a supernatural pull that told me he was mine. It was the anger, I thought. I was so damn pissed off that I could have disowned him. Now there was no indication in my mind that Dante was my mate other that the mark on my shoulder that claimed me as his.

I hadn’t felt such anger in so long. "You don't mean that,” I growled, not impressed with his sorry excuse of an apology.

I wanted to be with him, I wanted him to take me back but that didn't mean I forgave him. "I thought if I made you go back to before, I could go back as well, but do you know what I've realised over this time?" He asked.

Dante stepped closer so our bodies were flush together. His breath was warm as he leaned in towards my neck as his lips touched the skin, ebbing along my shoulder. Before he could touch the mark, I shouldered him forcefully away. With the expression of a hurt puppy, he muttered, "I realised I love you, Riley, and I can't just let you go."

But he had let me go, he let me go for over a month and it had drove me insane with lack of answers. Not knowing, not being involved. I opened my mouth to reply but found myself blubbering like a fish with nothing to say. As I got the words together, I spat out, "That hadn't stopped you disappearing for a month and leaving me behind all alone. I’ve been worried. Worried about you, worried about Austin and what’s going on with the packs. I’ve been left out the loop completely!"

His head shook. "That was a mistake."

It was all a mistake and you shouldn't run from them, I thought. I stuffed the tears back, away into my head and locked the thoughts that triggered them. "Why are you here?" I snapped, realising he hadn’t shown his intentions.

He looked down to the ground between us and sighed. "I haven't been able to keep away from the moment I left you here back home; I could feel you outside, in the cold each night. I had to follow and watch and make sure you were ok."

"You’ve been following me?" I asked as if I couldn’t believe what he was saying.

His hand fell from my shoulder and slowed to a rest on my hip. "I had to make sure you were ok, that you were coping."

My lip curled at the thought. He had watched me suffer, to make sure I was fine when clearly I wasn't. Dante had likely seen me crying and done nothing about it. "You sure did something about it, Dante. Did you have fun watching me suffer?"

I felt so stupid for being a bitten wolf that hadn’t progressed much with werewolf senses. Any other wolf would have known Dante was close if he were spying on me. I would have been able to smell him. Sense him in the same way Dante claimed to sense me. I hadn’t felt a thing. I was useless. And here I was thinking I was making good progress with transforming at will.

"Riley!" He groaned in frustration as he cusped my cheek with his free hand and gently turn my head to look up at him. "I'm here now. I'm leaving town soon, and I don't want to leave you here on your own - without me around."

The first tear of the conversation slipped over. "So, what? You're taking me with you now that it fits your schedule."

"It wasn't like that-."

"Like heck it was. I've brought you nothing but trouble so I don't even blame you anymore."

Dante’s eyes gently sank closed and his face tilted into the crook of my exposed neck. "Just come, come with me. Don't worry about your mom, don't worry about anything, just come with me right now and I swear I will fix everything."

I thought for a small moment and replied, "Where are you going?"

"We've been trying to find Austin. We think we might know roughly where he is.”

I looked back through the trees in the direction of my house. I couldn’t see it but I knew it was in that direction. The lights would all be off but the small light in the living room. My mom would be getting ready for bed. "We're going to find Austin?" I asked gently.

If not for Dante, I'd definitely go for Austin.

"You're coming, then?" He urged hopefully.

I looked at Dante and made sure he knew I still wasn’t happy, but that wavered when I saw how hopeful and happy he looked. I would be lying if I said he didn't look troubled too, deep down but he didn’t want to make it obvious. He'd suffered too. I whispered in reply, "What's going to happen next?"

He blinked slowly as his gaze fell, as if conjuring an answer. "I don't know, but we have to take this as it comes and right now it's leading me away from Mateo, and I know you're coming with me."

 

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