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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18. Chapter 18

The ride to Touren land to meet the Dimera’s didn’t take long. Bundling out the car, I looked up at Touren’s house. There stood everyone you’d expect to see as if they knew we’d be coming. Austin’s family, Mr and Mrs Dimera who’d been staying with the Touren’s. Beside them stood Simone. Behind her was her uncle, Kris. Other people we didn’t recognise and didn’t care to know.

Dante was the first to come around and help Austin out the back of the car, who still hadn’t moved an inch. He was truly out of it and nothing was waking him up.

Simone immediately became hysterical, as if seeing him confirmed all her worries. It certainly had for me, but also been a huge relief.

I pitied her as I imagine what it’d be like if that person was Dante. If Dante was in Austin’s place I could only imagine what I’d feel. I knew it wasn’t right as a human to favour Dante over Austin but as a werewolf, Dante meant more to my wolf than Austin ever did to my human.

Dante passed off Austin’s body to a waiting reception of Austin’s father and Kris who hoisted him inside. He took a step back and with me watched as Simone’s cries scraped the air like nails on a chalkboard as if she were the one dying.

“It’s sad,” Dante finally said as people began to disappear inside. “Simone will barely know anything about Austin. They met less than a month before he disappeared… But she’ll feel like they’ve known each other their whole life.”

I blindly reached down by Dante’s side and slid my fingers between his. “I sometimes wonder if being mates is actually worth the effort.”

Dante didn’t reply to that as he gently pulled me forward towards the door, ready to follow Megan who’d been the last of everyone else to filter inside. We both laid eyes on Austin, who’d been laid flat on the cold wooden floor with a large crowd surrounding his haggard body. His left leg was twitching.

Mr. Dimera brooded in the corner watching the chaos as his wife stroked her son’s face. Rose looked as bad as Simone, tears streaking her face but held an expression than read relief. Mr. Dimera on the other hand looked annoyed, and that angered me more than anyone else. Even now, with his son looking on the verge of death he still didn’t look like he cared.

I was about to mention something, when Mr. Dimera began talking without a prompt. With a sour expression, he said, “I give up my pack to have half a son returned to me. Wonderful.”

Everyone seemed to fall silent at the comment, just waiting for him to continue. I glanced up at Dante to my right who looked like he just wanted to leave and have no more to do with this.

Rose sniffled before she pointed her chin out at her husband in the corner. “Your son has been very brave,” she simply said.

Mr. Dimera didn’t look at his wife and instead curled his lip at an incapacitated Austin. “Brave,” he muttered. “The boy won’t even wake up.”

Even Kris at this point looked done with Mr. Dimera who was becoming more and more alienated from those around him. “Hey, don’t start anything now,” Kris said, “You can talk about this later.”

“Or how about not at all,” Rose challenged with a tone of voice I hadn’t heard before. I retreated into Dante’s side at the sight. “Leave,” She demanded, her hand flying out in front of her and pointing towards the door behind Dante and I.

Mr. Dimera followed the direction of her hand and landed on us by the door, his gaze sharp and deadly. The type of anger than was calm and controlled.

When Mr. Dimera refused to move, Rose got to her feet and bounded towards him and pushed him with a hard shove. She barely made a dent as she screamed in pain, “They’ve had him for months, doing all sorts and hurting him so bad he won’t even wake up. Have some compassion! He’s your own flesh and blood.”

They’d been through this before; Mr. Dimera hadn’t been one to sit quiet about what he thought and this was all a subject they’d argued about again and again while Austin was gone. Debating whether finding Austin was really worth it when faced with trading their pack, losing their livelihood, being put out of place. Rose would have given her life, Mr. Dimera would have shrugged and walked away.

Rose looked down and let her hand swipe the hair from her face. She looked horrible; her skin had become wrinkled, the bags under her eyes were more pronounced, her hair resembled rat tails, and her clothing was mismatched and ragged. She looked as bad as she felt, tear after tear falling from her eyes. “When Austin is better and he can walk away on his own two feet, he’s coming with me out of Mateo. We’ll live upstate with family, we’ll make money the human way and we’ll live as if none of this happened. And you’re not coming.”

Go, Rose! I wanted to shout. I admired that, taking control of the toxic situation and setting things right.

A vein throbbed by Mr. Dimera’s temple, his blood pressure shooting through the roof. Before he could shout something back, Simone began to cry again.

Everyone’s attention split back to her as Austin by her side began to move. First his eyes, the muscles around his lids twitching as if reacting to the light. His face screwed up as if her were in pain. His breathing increased as if he’d broken out of sleep.

I clenched Dante’s hand in hope, hope that he’d wake up and all would be back to normal. If Austin woke up, it felt as if everything would be fine.

His eyes opened, but they were blank. He didn’t look at anyone or anything, they didn’t read pain or joy or anger or annoyance. Just blank.

“Austin,” Rose cried as she forgot about her stubborn and rude husband and came to Simone’s side to coddle Austin. He looked broken beyond repair.

Dante then in that moment leaned closer to my ear and with smooth finger tips swiped the hair by my ear to whisper, “I think we should go. Leave them to it. Family time.” He kissed my cheek gently in reassurance, and no one could argue with him then.

I nodded quietly and looked at the floor. Dante was right. We may have been the ones to find him and bring him home, but Austin had a family who needed to deal with their emotions for him and find their own thoughts. I could be doing that with Dante, leaving them to their privacy.

I had to look up to see Dante’s face. He looked down expectantly for a vocal answer and I smiled gently. “Alright. Let’s go.”

***

Dante turned off the engine to my mom’s car – our only mode of transport – and we both looked quietly up at my house. The sun was setting. The day had felt like it’d lasted forever. On a wider scale, we’d done more today than we had in the past month. Everything had been done so fast.

Dante sighed as his hand found mines on my lap. “Is it just me or does this all feel rather anti climatic?”

He was right. This was too easy. “I feel it too,” I said. This wasn’t over until the hunters said so, and so far they’d been eerily quiet. “The hunters, do you think they’ve found out?”

Dante squeezed my hand. “Probably. Don’t worry about it; it’s not our problem anymore.”

I pulled my hand from Dante’s and let my head fall back against the seat. Breathing deeply, I said, “You know, Rose and Simone looked so heartbroken. I don’t know why the two of them couldn’t have gotten together some people and done what we done for themselves.”

I watched as a small smile filled Dante’s face. “As much as I hated the idea of you saving another guy and thoughts of him filling your head… I’m proud of your determination. I’m sorry I argued with you so much about it.”

I remembered back to just this morning when he was convinced we were walking into a trap, unconvinced that Austin was really alive and in the basement. Dante couldn’t care less about his life being in danger, he followed me anyway because he at least cared to defend me and make sure I was alright.

“It’s alright,” I said. “Now the only thing we need to do is get back your pack.”

His face fell at the mention, his eyes dropping to the wheel. Dante shook his head. “I don’t think I care about the pack,” he said.

“Truly?”

I squeezed his hand tightly in return as he said quietly, “What Rose said earlier made me think. He told Dimera than she was going to take Austin and live like humans. We could do that – I’d do it for you.”

I felt my eyes moisten at the suggestion. “But your father, everyone who depended on you as alpha-,” I began to say, but I couldn’t help but love the thought of it just being the two of us alone in the world with no true responsibility living as normally as possible.

Dante nodded in understanding. “They’re doing fine without me right now. Now the Dimera’s are Rogues and so are we, a lot of us suddenly don’t have packs. We can set up an agreement with Touren and Ben’s new Dimera pack that rogues are permitted to live in the area. We can redefine the territories and I assure you it’ll work out. We don’t even need to live in Mateo.”

Not living in Mateo. The thought sounded absurd – I’d lived here my whole life. In my head there was no life outside of Mateo. But, a new life also sounded relieving. “We can take your mom and sister,” I suggested.

“And your mom and dad,” Dante added.

It sounded great, but it wasn’t a reality for anytime soon. There was a long way to go before anything like that could be put into action.

I smiled sadly as I reached for the door handle. “But first we need to tie off our loose threads here. The Hunters first off, preferably. We might not be alphas anymore but they hate us all the same.”

Dante looked tired as he followed. “I know, I know. Kris Touren and Ben are the main targets now. If the hunters truly want to finish this Wolf Moon sacrifice, it’ll have to be one of them. They have all the way until 2020 to pull this Wolf Moon thing out, and if Shai was telling the truth they don’t even actually believe in it. Heck, no one living has ever experienced a Wolf Moon before.”

Dante joined me by my side as I ascended the porch steps. “Or Lay,” I quietly added to this list of possible casualties, remembering his presence up on Bancroft land only a few miles away. He too was another one of our loose threads we had to tie off. Dante nodded in agreement.

We both entered the house without knocking or giving anyone inside a warning. There was no need anyway, we found my mom singing along to the radio in the kitchen and we found Dante’s mom reading a book in the living room.

Dante instinctively went on to talk to him mom, and I followed thinking I’d see my own later. Nina, Dante’s mom, didn’t look up even when she began to talk. “Oh, you’re home,” she said in a monotone.

Dante leaned over and pecked his mom’s cheek. “How have you been?” He asked softly as if he hadn’t just seen her this morning. I smiled at him, because whether he admitted it or not he still needed his mom.

“Good,” Nina sighed as she changed pages. “I’m assuming everything went okay because you’re here in front of me.” I hadn’t realised Dante had told his mom about what we were up to… I hadn’t told mines in case she got scared.

Dante nodded, although I doubted Nina saw it. “Everything went fine. Austin is with his parents.”

“Good,” Nina muttered, “now you can focus on getting your pack back.” She reached down and blindly grabbed her glass of wine. She wouldn’t be Nina if she wasn’t drinking at dinner time.

I stood closer to Dante and put an arm around his large waist, watching for a reaction. After what he told me in the car, I wondered if he’d tell his mom… Or if he had told him mom but his mom was selectively listening to what he said. Dante could be fine on his own, he didn’t need his pack.

I was about to say something when Dante gently pinched my shoulder. His eyes read all I needed to know – be quiet.

Nine finally closed her book and looked up. “As long as you guys are okay dealing with the consequences,” She muttered as she heaved herself up off the indentation on the couch and let her book fall to the floor, almost toppling over her glass. She staggered past us, and out towards the kitchen to no doubt harass my mom who was growing more and more fed up with her new housemate.

Dante watched his mom go too, and gently pulled my back towards his front and held me softly for a while, his chin pressing into my shoulder in a gentle hug. “I think,” he said, “From now on we should take things day at a time. No big decisions. Let’s argue about where to get takeout and what we’re doing for the day. That sounds fun.”

I nodded into his chest and turned in his arms to envelope his body. Muffled against his chest, I replied in humour, “I say we get Chinese food.”

I felt Dante shake his head. “I want pancakes.”

My eyes squeezed shut as I laughed and pulled us together impossibly closer. “Pancakes for dinner?” I asked as if he’d lost his mind.

Dante nodded. “Pancakes for dinner.”

***

The next day my thoughts had returned to how they were before; Austin, Dimera’s, Hunters, repeat.

I’d called Rose’s number maybe 10 times. It rung and rung but no one picked up. On my eleventh attempt to ring Rose’s phone, I received an incoming call from Megan.

“Riley, Rose would like me to ask you to stop calling her,” she said without much thought for how I’d be feeling.

“Is everything alright?”

Megan for a moment realised her mistake when she heard my voice. “Oh, yeah, she’s fine, she just wants her space and she’s helping Austin and Simone right now.”

I was quiet as I paced about in my room and tried to think of ways to hold on to this conversation. “Is he awake, talking, doing well?” I asked, not sure what direction I wanted this to go.

Megan laughed. “All of the above. He’s fine. We’ll let you see him soon.”

I sighed in relief. “Glad to hear,” I said.

I couldn’t keep the conversation going much longer, and a few exchanges later Megan was making excuses to hang up. I couldn’t fault her – Austin was actually her cousin. She too was bound to be feeling some hard stuff right now and that only made me feel worse after I realised what I’d been doing all morning, blowing up their phones with spam.

Dante found me half an hour later still in my room, but now sprawled out across my bed and staring up at the ceiling. I’d purposely left my phone on the opposite side of the room so I couldn’t touch it as I laid there. Dante laughed and said, “Are you alright?”

Stupid question, of course I wasn’t alright. He knew my thoughts had reverted back to worrying for people other than us and it was frustrating Dante more than anyone else. He just wanted to put the Dimera’s behind him.

I shook my head. “I just called Rose ten times in the space of five minutes and then had Megan calling me to tell me to leave them alone. I even texted Mr. Dimera.” I wasn’t even sure why I had their numbers still. Maybe if I’d actually deleted them, it would have disabled me from embarrassing myself this much.

Dante shook his head as he approached and sat on the side of my bed. Laying back, he let his head lay beside mine and easily planted a kiss on my lips. “You mean well. But you know yourself you just need to give it a rest.”

I nodded.

He studied me for a few moments as he thought, his eyes wide as they looked into mine, his blonde hair tickling his eyebrows and pink pinched lips temptingly close. “What can I do to take your mind off things?” Dante asked. I couldn’t have asked for anyone better than him.

I shrugged into the covers, but Dante didn’t get frustrated like he might have before, now feeling like he had all the time in the world. Even though the weight hadn’t been lifted from my shoulders, it had been lifted from his and now he had more time to talk things out with me.

He suddenly got up. “Let’s go. We can go see Ben – see if there’s been any updates on his part,” he said.

I didn’t know if Dante realised or not but Ben was the new alpha of Dimera, living in the very same house that Austin and I had when I first came to know about werewolves. Being there was the last place I wanted to be but Dante was all but clueless. He smiled expectantly as he gestured with his eyes for me to follow him as if I was ready to leave right that second despite the birds nest on my head and smeared mascara under my eyes. Dante never seemed to care so long as there was a smile on my face.

I followed after him and not much time later we were sat in my mom’s car and driving out towards the back trail that’d lead up towards Ben’s Dimera territory. I assumed Ben was expecting us, but that didn’t matter much to me. My thoughts went back months to peaceful but tense times in the Dimera house, with Austin and Rose and Mr. Dimera and things were hard and I couldn’t figure out what was going on but Austin was always there. My mom wanted nothing to do with me and my dad was in hospital, I had no friends but Austin always comforted me.

In a matter of minutes, Dante and I were out the car and being greeted by Ben in the hall of the home. “Glad you could make it,” Ben said, confirming he knew we’d be here.

“No problem,” Dante said pleasantly. I couldn’t help but appreciate the calm and peace. The lack of tension between Ben who was essentially a rival was great. Dante could make an alliance with the new Dimera and Ben if he kept this up. Not that it’d matter if Dante and I really did leave town to chance a normal life though.

Ben led us both down towards the small study like usual and he taken his own seat behind his desk. I couldn’t quite figure out what required the Dimera’s to have a study in the first place but I guessed it served well as a private space for the important pack stuff. Ben seemed to live in here.

“Any news?” Dante asked as he settled himself into the seat across beside me, conjoining our hands under the desk.

Ben nodded. “Just a little. We’re sensing Hunter presence nearby in the direction of Bancroft land, so either they’ve got beef with Lay or there’s something else going on there. Now we know the hunters can mask their scent, it’s worrying to think where exactly they might be. We can smell a hunter or so on Bancroft land, and I’m sure it’s by mistake, but where else might they be whilst concealing their scent?”

Dante thought about that new information. “Interesting. And you’re still open to fighting off Lay if it comes to it?”

Ben nodded again. “Of course. Lay has less right than even the hunters to be here.” Ben then added, “If we sense the hunters or even Lay close by, we’ll let you know. As you know, Dimera territory ends and Bancroft begins, so you could very well have a standoff across borders if you timed it right. And just so you know, now your hunter friend is gone I’m considering all hunters free game.”

The idea of meeting Bancroft and Lay face to face across a border sounded great in theory. Any decent wolf wouldn’t dare step over the invisible boundary but Lay nor Ethan, the new Bancroft alpha, were decent wolves. “Sounds good to me. You know our number,” I replied for Dante despite my doubts.

Mid-sentence, the ringing of Ben’s phone caught us off guard. The house phone sung from its dock, sitting on Ben’s desk. “Speaking of a certain someone and numbers… It’s Bancroft calling,” Ben said. “Your old landline number has been ringing at least twice a day for the past few days.”

Dante scrunched his eyebrows as he got up off his seat and read the screen. ‘Bancroft’. The number must have been programmed from long ago, and I could imagine both Austin and Dante’s parents arguing over it many years ago about mundane pack business.

“Or at least, someone calling from your house on your land. Lay, perhaps?” Ben suggested.

At the mention of Lay’s name, Dante snatched the phone from Ben’s hand and answered it straight away. Of course it’d be Lay, who else had access to the phone in Dante’s old house and would bother calling.

Dante put the phone on loudspeaker as a voice called out, “Dimera, how nice of you to finally answer my call,” Lay’s voice sung, confirming what Ben said and that’d he’d been trying to get through for a while.

“What is it?” Dante growled down the line, his face reading every emotion you’d imagine he felt speaking to Lay. Lay was someone who’d betrayed us, someone who’d snapped when things didn’t go their way for the first time. He was immature and reckless, and we both he was knew very, very dangerous.

“Oh,” Lay said in surprise. I could imagine his face; smug and smiling. Lay didn’t provide us with any shortage of that when we’d been with him in person a short while ago. “It’s Dante. Is Riley there too?”

I didn’t even dare breathe loudly in case he heard.

Lay laughed when no one replied. “Good, it’s good you answered. I can speak with you directly for a change. Anyway, how have you guys been?” He asked.

Dante looked ready to snap. And to think everything was looking peaceful. “Get to the point,” Dante growled. They weren’t even five sentences into the conversation but Dante was ready to smash the phone.

Lay took his sweet time in replying as he said, “The hunters wanted me to pass on a message. They wanted me to say they’re pretty annoyed with what you and Riley have done.”

Dante looked between the two of us and a wave of heat came over me with all the worries following. Dante didn’t give Lay the satisfaction of an answer.

“They want you to know they don’t want you stealing their property again, and the Wolf Moon isn’t yet over. They still need that sacrifice,” Lay teased. He laughed down the line like this were hilarious and added, “Well, I have duties calling and people to see. I’ll leave the message with you so you can give it some thought. Don’t be too reckless, Dante.”

“We’ll do what we want,” Dante spat back.

“I don’t doubt that for a second,” Lay replied with no pause. “And we’re not finished either. I’ve got your pack, but that’s not what I want, Dante.”

The line beeped before Dante could curse and scream at the infuriating voice on the other end. Ben for once looked confused and unsure on what to do. And then there was me, useless and unable to say what the next step was.

Dante threw the phone as far as he could across the room sending it into a wall, exploding into a million tiny pieces. Ben didn’t seem to care about his damaged property as he commented, “If Lay has a deal with the hunters, this will become more complicated than we originally thought. Explains the scents anyway.”

Dante didn’t need to hear that out loud, the thought already in his head. I could tell by the look in his eyes, he’d figured that out from the get-go of that conversation. Something terrible was brewing if Lay and the hunters were in on it together, and now I was unsure of how possible the dream of us two moving out of Mateo really was… Not in a wooden box, anyway.

He simply sighed as his head fell to look into his lap.

At least we’d experienced momentary peace, but of course not for long.

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