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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16. Chapter 16

Ben welcomed us into the Dimera pack house, with no real Dimera in sight. That was to be expected, but I still mistakenly expected to see Rose with a tray of cookies on her arm with a heavenly homely scent drafting through the house.

Ben impatiently tapped his foot as he stood over us. He looked different; his eyes, colder. I wondered briefly if Dante would be a different person if he had never been an alpha – would he have been more playful, more relaxed? “Alright,” Ben said, “What is it?”

Dante glanced over at me as the three of us stepped inside the familiar study that I’d sat in with Austin and his father. Nothing had changed. “First off, I just want to say we’re sorry for what Riley done-.”

“Stop,” Ben interrupted. “I don’t want to hear it. Just tell me what you’re here for and leave.”

Ben was clearly still upset. I’d be upset too, beyond upset and verging on murderous. I had to praise Ben for his control.

Dante nodded in understanding and said, “It’s about Austin.

The mood suddenly took a turn, weighing down more than it had before. Ben looked so fed up as he replied with his eyes for Dante to continue.

“He’s in Mateo. He’s been here all along.”

Ben spat what sounded like an incredulous laugh as he leaned back on his heel and reached behind himself to pick a pen up from his desk. “Doesn’t surprise me, honestly. We might have been born into our kind but as time goes by I’m coming to realise none of us know anything of use about our own kind. How we think, how our enemies think, what the hell it is we can do.” Ben shook his head.

Dante visibly disagreed. “We know plenty about our own kind, but no one has ever been good at predicting our enemy’s abilities. How were we ever to know they had poison that could shut down the werewolf sense, how were we ever to know they had the abilities to mask Austin’s scent so well that we couldn’t and still can’t sense his scent in the house they’re holding him up in.”

Ben drew seemingly meaningless marks on his hand with the pen, covering his tanned skin in dark ink. “So you’ve narrowed down his location within Mateo?”

“The local Mateo hunter,” I said suddenly, offering the information. “Gary. His house – although Gary and his daughter appear to be missing.”

Ben nodded. “Smart choice.” For a moment he looked curious of something, and then aired his question, “How did you find out?”

I saw Dante’s eyes fall over me from my side. I didn’t look back up in case he’d take it as a warning not to say anything. We had to tell Ben what had happened and I trusted Ben wouldn’t lash out. Sabitha and Samira would make or break this.

“An informer,” Dante said, “from this inside.” He leaned back to gauge Ben’s reaction.

Ben didn’t seem neither surprised nor angry. Just blank, waiting for us to continue. I did truly feel sorry for the responsibility we’d put on his shoulders because he didn’t look like he enjoyed it one bit.

I discreetly reached down and held Dante’s hand as I took control of this part, looking up at Ben’s expectant face. “Long story short, Dante and I losing our pack isn’t as disconnected to Austin’s disappearance as it originally seemed. You already know we went to Colorado because someone in the Santoro pack spotted Austin with hunters – it turned out those leads weren’t real and instead fabricated to lure us into Colorado so Sabitha and Samira could see us on their territory, to gauge how useful we could be to them. We’d never have went to their pack if they hadn’t made it all up, hence never meeting Lay and losing our pack.”

Ben’s eyebrow visibly furrowed as he tiled his head to this side, showing the first sign of intrigue since we got here. “Why did Sabitha and Samira need to gauge how useful you’d be? How is this connected to Austin?” he asked, already aware of the twins.

“Their father is a hunter,” Dante said bluntly

The man opposite us didn’t react bar his jaw that clenched painfully at the word. “They’re hunters too?”

“No,” I insisted, “only their father.” I couldn’t stop now I’d begun and I had to make sure now misunderstandings wouldn’t appear out of nowhere and ruin what we’d begun. I let my mouth loose as I said, “They heard about what had happened between Dimera, Bancroft, and the hunters and understandably they were concerned about their father who is part of the hunters. They wanted to meet us to try and find a way to help save their father from what’s likely to be a bloody ending. We don’t kill their father in exchange for information. They claim their father will leave the hunters behind.”

Ben stuck his chin out and laughed disbelievingly. “We help hunters? No, no way.”

I shook my head, confident in myself and the trust I had for them. “They’re good people. The girls felt so guilty about what happened with Lay that they followed us around and finally to Mateo to make sure we weren’t hurt, and of course because if we die then there’s no one to guarantee their dad’s safety. If not for them I know we could very well have been dead by now.”

Dante nodded in agreeance, despite what he might have thought of them.

“And their father,” Ben said, “How can you be so sure this isn’t a trap to kill us from the inside? We can’t go making deals with hunters.”

I wasn’t so sure on that, and that was a problem. “I don’t know,” I honestly said, “But they’ve told us where Austin is-.”

“They’ve told you where their hunter father said he is. No one can smell Austin because of their hunter technologies. You’re taking their word for his whereabouts!” Ben argued. “You walk into their den and find it’s all a trick – instead of Austin, you’ll find fifty hunters waiting to skin you alive.”

I narrowed my eyes and broke apart from Dante, trying to hold ground against Ben who was as intimidating as Dante and Austin could be. I recalled fearing Austin and even Dante for the longest time. Now, I feared nothing. “I trust them,” I said, completely sure of myself.

Ben sighed loudly as he let his head fall. “But I can’t trust your judgment. What do you want us to do, Riley, Dante? The Dimera’s aren’t my responsibility – they are rogue wolves now. This is the Dimera pack but we don’t fight for the Dimera’s anymore. Austin is the least of my worries.”

“He’s your cousin-.”

“-He’s my rogue cousin,” Ben corrected. “I’d protect him with my life but you have to understand it’s harder for me now to step on my pedestal and join you both.”

I knew this was as far as we’d get with him today. It was a starting point. Ben had his own priorities now and clearly Austin wasn’t one. I couldn’t fault him for it. “Just promise us you won’t kill any old hunter you see. Detain them first. We need Sabitha and Samira’s father alive, okay?” I asked.

I was asking a lot of Ben when the norm was to kill hunters on the spot. Ben tossed around the favour for a second before he nodded softly. “Alright,” he said, “But that’s as far as I go in this. We catch any we come across and let you check them first.”

Dante added into the conversation, saying, “And be aware of the situation in Mateo with Austin and the hunter house. Don’t be alarmed about any suspicious behaviour,” Dante added, “Riley seems to think we’ll have him out of there soon.”

Ben smiled appreciatively. “Will do. We’ll steer well clear.” As we both turned to leave, Ben caught our attention again by saying, “Oh, Dante – we had to chase out a few foreign wolves from our land last night. One was a Bancroft, the other I wasn’t sure of. Maybe a Santoro or the likes. Both alphas. We may not want to engage with the hunters but I’m always up for a good wolf on wolf fight. They’re getting on my nerves.” Ben grinned at the thought before saying, “I can kill them both if they do it again. Just give us the word.”

I glanced up at Dante whose expression had taken a turn. Ben had tried to humour it but this was weight that hung painfully over Dante. Ben’s help would either be a godsend or our gravedigger.

***

Dante and I had to get a taxi home, neither of us up for running through the Dimera forest. It had only been an hour or so, so when we stepped out the taxi we were both surprised to see Sabitha and Samira’s car pulled up in my drive.

We got out and Dante visibly sniffed the air like usual. I followed suit, hoping someday I’d be able to sense the world like Dante did. My nostrils twitched like Dante’s as I tried to cling onto a scent he would be able to smell – there it was. A putrid smell comparable to rotting garbage that was either coming from the trashcan just down the drive or something a little more supernatural. I glanced up at Dante for his reaction – he didn’t like the smell much either.

“Oh, boy,” Dante said, “I didn’t realise how badly a hunter scent sticks. Samira and Sabitha are oozing it,” he said assuming it was coming from the two girls in my house.

Great, I thought, my house will smell of garbage for days.  

We stepped up the porch, the smell increasing in intensity. “A hunter scent,” I said, “surely it shouldn’t be this strong.”

Dante’s breathed through his mouth. “Nope. Just how I remember it. Maybe the hunters had done us a favour when they’d dulled our senses – I haven’t missed their scent in the slightest. I think I’ve recovered my senses completely now.”

Me too, I thought, assuming I’d lost them in the first place. I’d never sensed something quite so disgusting in my life.

Dante and I stepped cautiously through the door, hoping it wouldn’t get worse. It did. Wafting his hand in front of his face, Dante began to look angry. Anything was setting him off recently. “Sabitha, Samira, go take a shower-,” he began to shout when a figure just down the hall stepped out with my mom behind them, talking casually as if it were completely normal.

A tall man with tanned skin appeared before us, someone neither of us had met before but knew who he was straight away. He was the source of the smell. My mom spotted us before he did. “Riley!” she cheered unknowingly.

The smile on the man’s face fell quickly as he turned to look at the two of us. He resembled the twins – the same nose, same hair, and same jaw shape. This was their father. The hunter.

“Hello,” he said shyly, shy enough to make me sniff the air again just to make sure he really was a hunter. I choked on the smell. Yep, definitely hunter.

Sabitha and Samira appeared from the living room to our left and stepped between us and their father with wary expressions. “We wanted you to meet him,” Samira said quietly.

My mom seemed none of the wiser to the tensions in the room and smiled eagerly at the man. “Riley, Dante, this is Shai.” She seemed to like him, and anyone who got an approval from my mother was bound to be a good person.

I tried to smile back at the unsure man but I struggled.

Dante was tense as my mom muttered about getting tea for us all as if that’s what we needed in that moment of time. I thought it was perhaps a smart move as her senses began to tingle that things might get messy. Maybe the thought of having scalding hot liquid in our hands would prevent that… or it’d maybe encourage a hospital trip depending how worked up Dante got. Dante was on his best behaviour though. I’d made him promise.

 Samira and Sabitha sat with their dad Shai. We sat opposite. Dante’s mom was nowhere to be seen and for a brief moment wondered where she was today. I had seen her constantly for the past week.

“We should have asked…” Samira muttered between the awkward silence, no one knowing what to say. She looked down but her father reached out and held her hand gently. My human side saw it as a nice family gesture, my wolf side grimaced about how our friends hand would need to be scrubbed a dozen times to remove his scent.

Dante nodded. I had to elbow him before he spoke just to remind him I was there and not to go too far. He flicked his eyes down at me before saying, “It certainly wasn’t a good idea coming here anyway. You’re a hunter and a werewolf. The human hunters might not be able to sense you’ve been here but other hunters of the werewolf kind will smell your scent all over this house – they’ll know you’ve been here.”

Shai nodded. “I know.” His face was wrinkled and his eyelids drooped. He looked tired, but not tired in the way that’d be fixed by a long nap, his body just looked finished. His entire being was tired. Hopeless.

I had to think for a few seconds why it was necessary to go through all this trouble to save their father, and realised that through this method Shai, their father, had little choice in what he was doing. He was being forced into this plan, whether he truly did intend on leaving the hunters or not. The girls had put him in a tight spot with all this, because now he had to go along with it or die. A thought of worry flickered across my brain.

Dante looked pointedly at the girls. “Your father isn’t useful to us if he isn’t with the hunters. They’ll kill him when they find out he was here.”

Samira, the more confident of the two, curled her lip. “The hunters know he has two daughters in the Santoro pack. The hunters know the Santoro pack is in Mateo to kill you. The hunters know my father is meeting us because we’re close. They’ll smell extra werewolf scent on my father but it’s sometimes very hard to determine what pack the scent came from. If they smell a werewolf, he can explain it as being us.”

Dante wasn’t having Samira’s challenge and shot back in an instant, saying, “I don’t care about us transferring our scent to him, I care about the filthy hunter scent that’s now festering in this house. I could smell it from the yard!” Samira recoiled at his raised voice and that visibly annoyed Shai. Dante continued anyway and said, “The hunters will know a hunter has been in this house, and why would you girls have any use being in this house if you’re with the Santoro pack? They’ll know you’re father’s planning on becoming a traitor right away.”

“I’m not hanging around,” Shai suddenly said as his arm stretched out behind his daughters. “We’re leaving. As soon as possible.”

Even I became surprised at that. I looked between the two girls who’d become my friends and asked with my eyes for them to explain. Sabitha smiled sadly and said, “We’ll stay. Until your friend is free. That was the deal. That’s all we wanted and all we can give. Dad’s safe now, and he’s agreed to come with us.”

I nodded but I couldn’t imagine Sabitha and Samira not around anymore. I’d seen their faces for months now and they’d become the go-to people recently. I’d really miss them, I thought. “Ok. We need to move quickly and get Austin then.”

Shai spoke up, “They already know he isn’t an alpha. He’ll stink like a rogue now.”

“He could be dead already,” I said to myself quietly. No one across from us seemed to pick it up but Dante had. He hugged me closer to his side and told me Austin was fine ever so quietly.

“Do you hunters really believe in the Wolf Moon?” Dante asked between a few moments of silence.

Shai thought about the answer. “There’s no record of a Wolf Moon occurring, but our texts put that down to the alpha sacrifice. A lot of my fellow hunters are using it as an excuse to terrorise local packs.”

“As if you need an excuse,” Dante spat quietly.

I then had my own questions. “Why hasn’t Austin been killed already? Why wait and give us the chance to find him?”

“They’re toying with you, with his friends and family,” Shai replied. “Killing Austin only prevents the Wolf Moon but doesn’t give as much satisfaction of causing as much turmoil as possible. They have a time frame of up to the year 2020 to kill Austin if they really wanted to stretch out this game. Of course, he’s not a viable kill for the Wolf Moon anymore but he’s a good hostage because it roughens up a lot of different packs.”

Dante folded his arms over his chest and looked away as if it’d help distract him. “This Wolf Moon is just bullshit. It doesn’t exist. Killing our people occurs every day, not once every 500 years of a Wolf Moon.”

“Isn’t that what I said?” Shai put in.

Dante glared at him. “You’re saying they as if you’re not one of them. That’s funny.”

I gripped Dante’s arm tighter and growled, “Stop it, Dante.”

He shook me off easily and added, “This could all be part of this big game of yours. Shai, Sabitha, and Samira having planned this all along. We’re falling right for it!”

“And I’d fall for it again and again if it meant I could save Austin.”

Sabitha and Samira observed as if this wasn’t there place to put in their thoughts and their father looked on the verge of a mental breakdown. It was simple in my mind; Shai has to co-operate and somehow allow us safe access to Austin. That was it. We’d be alone from there and try to set him free. Shai could run off with his daughters and Dante and I would be left with the mess.

“Look,” I said as I leaned back to be closer to Dante. “We know where he is. We know where we have to go. We know what we have to do.”

“We think,” Dante muttered as he stared blankly across the room.

I rolled my eyes. There truly was no getting through the Dante like how there was no getting through Ben just earlier today. I could understand that Austin wasn’t Dante’s priority but Austin was my priority and I would have appreciated some understanding. “I don’t need your help,” I said towards Dante.

Samira suddenly held out her hand. “Stop,” she said. “I know what us three are doing. We’re not going to change our plans. Tomorrow afternoon a lot of the hunters won’t be in Mateo. Our dad’s been left in charge, so before you two arrive our dad and us two are going to leave Mateo without anyone noticing meaning you’ll only have to get through one hunter in the house. You’ll have to get Austin out of there before anyone returns and then you’ll have to deal with the aftermath. We’ll be away, gone.”

Dante still visibly didn’t like the sound of that but it seemed like a solid plan to me. “Alright,” I said. “That’s settled. When will you be leaving? When should we begin?”

“Around noon,” Shai replied. “Don’t be too long. We won’t protect you.”

I shook my head in confidence. “We won’t need it. We’ll have the Touren’s and the Dimera family to back us up.”

Dante laughed like it were a funny joke. “You hope.”

I glared at him because it felt like he was purposely setting out to ruin the plan. Austin could die and would he really feel comfortable if I laid the blame on him for the rest of our lives together… Because that’s what I’d do. His words held some truth though. You hope. You think. I did hope, and I wasn’t sure. The Dimera’s until now had done nothing to save their son, it had been me and Dante every single time. The Touren’s wouldn’t be much help either because their only tie was through Kris’s niece, Simone.

Tomorrow, I thought. Tomorrow this second chapter could end.

I glanced up at the three people in front of me and nodded my head to show I was ready. I didn’t care what Dante thought – I could do this all by myself.

 

 

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