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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19. Chapter 19

I sat that morning at the table in our kitchen, observing my mom dish up some breakfast for me and her lodgers who’d yet to drag themselves out of bed – Dante included. She looked lost momentarily before she found herself in the middle of my one sided conversation.

“So what happened again?” She repeated as she nudged a cabinet door with her hip, balancing several plates on her hand.

I shook my head and let my chin dig into my arm as I laid on level with the wooden table. “I don’t know. I just want to pretend it actually never happened.”

Mom laughed breathily as she finally freed her hands and dusted off some invisible dirt. “You know, I don’t think any of this has to be so confusing.”

“Amen,” I muttered moodily.

My mom continued disregarding what I’d said about forgetting as she continued, “And a blood transfer. How ridiculous. I should really call Rose.” She then bit loudly into an apple for a moment of peace as the pots behind her began to sing.

I shook my head. “There’s only so many times I can say amen without it becoming weird. And I recommend you don’t call Rose – she isn’t even taking my calls.”

She waved her hand as she turned off the stove top completely. “Well, I’m much more likely to take a call from Rose than I am Austin don’t you not think? Same logic. Rose will take my call.” Well, if you’re sure. “And Austin… He’ll be okay, right? He was always such a nice boy,” mom muttered.

I couldn’t help but laugh. A nice boy.  While that could’ve been true, my mom and I had never known the Dimera’s long enough to be saying if he were always a nice boy. “He’ll be fine, it’s his family’s situation I’m concerned about now. They don’t have anything tying them down here and that’s bound to have left Mr. Dimera as a bit of a loose cannon.”

Mom nodded in understanding. Everything looked prepared, an amount of food ready to feed an absent army. “Now it’s just Dante left with things to finish up, hey,” she said as she marched towards the door and screamed as loud as she could for everyone to wake up, and then reminding Amanda – Dante’s sister – that it was a school day.

Amanda seemed to be blending in fairly well for someone who’d never been to school in their entire life. It was like she’d taken direct instructions for early 2000 chick-flics.

Above us, the sound of people getting ready began to get louder.

Mom marched back inside the kitchen and sighed. “So, you and Dante-,” she began to say.

A red flush invaded my cheek space. “Me and Dante are fine,” I insisted. “We’ve been talking. Once this is all over and he’s tied everything up, we just want to live normally. No pack, no hunters. Just us and family. We even have a date today,” I finished.

“Do we?” A voice called eagerly from the hall. There was Dante a moment later, popping his head around the corner and smiling a tired grin. His eyes landed on the food before they landed on me.

I gestured towards it and let him get his fill as I nodded. “We do.”

“Where?” My mom asked curiously, “Somewhere normal I hope.” Implying any other date of ours wasn’t normal.

I pursed my lips and glanced between my mom and Dante. “Yes. We’re going to the park.”

“The park’s boring,” My mom immediately cut in, with Dante silently agreeing as he finished off half his breakfast.

Rolling my eyes, I replied, “The Park’s normal.”

Everyone else seemed to arrive in that moment. Bundling down the stairs like one of them had tripped was Dante’s Mom, Nina, and Dante’s sister, Amanda. Amanda already had a full face of makeup on and automatically curled her nose up at breakfast.

My mom looked as if she was taking great amusement over the subject of dates. So much so that she began to pester Nina who was usually the annoying one. Nina, in her half-conscious state, looked up at my mom when she tapped her shoulder and literally growled. That didn’t put my mom off.

“Your son’s got a date, I wonder where they should take each other,” my mom said excitedly down at the woman who looked like she couldn’t care less. I might have put that down to the fact she’d just woken up, but I knew Nina always felt like this inside.

Nina shrugged into the bowl of cereal after she too like her daughter turned her nose up at the other foods Dante seemed to wolf down. “A walk?” Nina said so quietly you might have missed it. She certainly wasn’t a morning person.

“Shopping?” Amanda piped up.

Dante protested audibly this time as he replied to the suggestion, “No way!”

Amanda glared viciously. “You don’t know anything!” She screeched. It was far too early for this.

Dante laughed like it was hilarious as he replied, “And that’s why I have a date and not you.”

That seemed to make her retreat but I couldn’t help but feel sorry – the girl was young and standing in between two worlds that tugged her in two different directions. Shopping totally was a normal date when I was in school. School, I thought. How great that school was behind me. I was diploma-less but I couldn’t have cared less.

“You know what, the park sounds great,” Dante said suddenly as if everything else was too much effort. “We can leave the special dates for when we’re out of Mateo and have the time.”

I smiled sadly into my bowl and let myself take another bite. The park was fine… No, the park was great. I had many memories there, some with family and some with friends. None with my second life as a werewolf – It’d be great to make some there too.

I nodded subtly to myself. We deserved this break.

***

Dante and I wandered aimlessly around the small park of greens, pinks, and blues. There were some seasonal flowers, but not many. The park had decayed significantly from the memory of how I’d remembered it. The benches were rotten and so were the people here who seemed to congregate in small gangs in shady corners right next to the children swings. If that wasn’t alarming, I wasn’t sure what was.

Dante’s arm wrapped around my waist like any other couple and I felt content. The heat of his body radiated out towards me, likewise to him. The cold wind couldn’t make me shiver. It was a great feeling.

“I’ve never been here before,” Dante said quietly as we curved around another narrow path that was cracked and broken as it led towards a small pond that filled with tadpoles in spring. The park was vast, but nothing special – a small area in town that families had used for free day outs when the weather allowed it and when kids were interested in playparks. No family was around today.

I smiled slightly as I separated from Dante’s side and moved a few paces ahead. “You weren’t missing out on much, as you can see.” I gestured around me at the overgrown shrubs and grass poking up between the cracked slabs. “But it’s nice that it’s so quiet.”

He cracked his neck to the side as he looked away and thought about it. “Not as quiet as the forest, though. I can still hear the cars from the main road.”

“Well I can’t,” I replied as I snubbed my nose at him. “The road is at least a kilometre away.”

Dante took no time in catching up with me with two confident strides to match my three smaller ones that had torn me the same distance. Pressing against my back, he leaned down and said quietly against my ear, “You still have a lot to learn, Riley.”

I leaned back into his body. “I’m taking it slowly.”

“I can see that,” He replied as he straightened himself out and stepped to my side to resume holding me around my waist. “Someday your senses might be as strong as mine.”

I laughed. “Keyword: Might.”

Dante shrugged. “Or never. It doesn’t matter; you’ll always have me to be your eyes and ears.”

I couldn’t help but smile at the suggestion that we’d always have each other. It was a sweet thoughts, but in the human world how common was it for the people we were together with at 18 to be with us when we were 80? It sounded impossible, but that wasn’t how it was here. Dante was my mate not a boyfriend or a husband. That would make the difference… Right?

Nodding up at him, I replied, “I’d like that.”

He breathed deeply as he let his head fall back towards the sky, his eyes creasing to take in the light that grew stronger and stronger as the day progressed. “It doesn’t even smell nice out here,” he muttered. More complaints.

I pursed my lips at him and tugged him along. “Whatever, if you don’t like it we can just go home and mope around until something else goes wrong.”

Dante laughed, testing the waters to make sure I wasn’t really actually pissed off. When he deemed it safe, he said, “I was kidding. But you know nothing can beat the smell of the pine trees.”

I nodded hesitantly in agreement. “We’ll just have to make sure wherever we move to has lots of pine trees and wide open spaces so we can all enjoy our privacy. No car in earshot, no playpark in sight.”

We both came towards a slightly less decaying bench that was instead crafted from metal. It was rusting beneath the many several paint jobs it’d received over the years but without asking each other we both sat down at the same time. From this positon, we both sat facing wild overgrown bushes and had a path to our right that would cut off on a fork just ahead and to the left the path we’d just came.

We could sit here for hours, I thought, just together in a setting we hadn’t already spent days in. We were still in Mateo but here we weren’t confined within four walls.

Four walls, I muttered internally. That’s all Austin had looked at for months when he’d been confined in that basement and here I was complaining about being bored. That was selfish.

“What’s next?” I asked out loud as I let myself lean onto Dante’s shoulder.

He shrugged lightly, jostling my body. “After the park? We go home. After everything? We deal with it and move on.”

“It’s all so ridiculous that I can’t quite fathom what it is we have to deal with to move on.”

Dante laughed, but I knew he didn’t find it funny. “I know. I heard you and your mom talking about it this morning.”

It was my time to shrug. “You’ll have to agree with me then that this blood transfer stuff came straight out of the blue. If it’s so easy to dethrone an alpha, why wasn’t it done in the past? Why didn’t Austin’s father never do that to you? I get that it’s totally wrong, but even in human war people have done the ultimate evils. Werewolves are no saint”

“Don’t get me wrong, that’s a valid point,” Dante said straight away, “Blood transfer has always been a thing but it’s so unheard of that it never crosses anyone’s mind. It’s not right. No matter how much packs hate each other I don’t think either would do it, it’s like cheating. And I know you say when has cheating stopped anyone, and it hasn’t, but look at me – did I know about a blood transfer before all this? I had a vague recollection of something along those lines but it would never cross my mind.”

I let my eyes close slowly. “I thought I was beginning to make sense of things for a while but clearly not.”

Dante’s body relaxed against my side, his arm wrapping around my waist and pulled me closer. “And we also have Lay involved who seems to lack any morals when it comes to what methods he can use to attack us. I’ve never heard of an alpha using such cowardly tactics. You could steal a pack with a blood transfer but you just don’t.

“Well he did.”

“You know, the thought of using a blood transfer didn’t even cross my mind until Sabitha and Samira mentioned it. How much should I bet that they somehow told Lay – whether innocently in conversation or on purpose, before or even after they met us?” Dante growled, and I knew then this conversation was going to take a turn into argument territory if I didn’t stop it.

“Dante, we’ve talked about this before-,” I tried to say, only to spot a certain someone on the path to the left, quickly approaching us like she were here on purpose. It was the last person I would have expected to bump into in Mateo because I’d heard she’d run away… But she was back.

Bianca approached us like she were someone we’d be happy to see. A smile on her face that I’d forgotten I missed. As she stopped in front of the two of us, I was so surprised I forgot how to talk.

Dante noticed her the second I did out of the corner of his own eyes. The last time we’d seen her was shortly before the fight against the hunters at Wolf Lake, so understandably he wasn’t greeting Bianca with a smile. At her approach, he turned to face her and covered me from her reach as if she didn’t look like a small, petite, freckled, harmless teenager.

“Riley,” she said, sending pleasant emotions down my spine as I remembered how it all used to be. “Hey.” Bianca smiled kindly.

Don’t be fooled, I thought. “Bianca,” I breathed. “Why are you here?”

She shrugged nonchalantly. “We decided to come back.”

Dante let out an audible growl as he got to his feet. His hand blindly attempted to hold me in place but I followed after him. “You and your father?

Bianca nodded without a thought. “Just us two. And I need to talk with you.” She eyed Dante as if he were below her for a split second.

I stepped out from behind Dante and looked at the girl who I’d spent so much time with over my teenage years. She looked the same if not a little tired; her eyes still wide and innocent as if she hadn’t seen the things I knew she’d seen along with me, her hair still bright and unruly, her face still rounded and kind. I wasn’t sure how much I could trust those appearances.

“Riley,” She said, breaking me out of my thoughts. “Can we?”

I gestured with my pointer finger up at myself as Dante peered questioningly down at me. “Can we what?” I asked stupidly.

“Talk.”

Dante shook his head before I could think of a response myself. “No. No way,” he said.

I smiled up at the back of Dante’s head and laid a hand on his shoulder. “It’s okay,” I said as I looked over at Bianca. “We should talk.”

Dante peered over his shoulder at me and visibly disapproved “No,” He growled through his teeth.

The look he got back shut him up. After a few seconds of silent standoff, I gestured with my head for Bianca to follow me. She looked appreciative as she gave Dante a wide berth and came to my side. “Stay,” I muttered at Dante, “And don’t be nosy.” He didn’t look happy.

Bianca and I rounded a small corner and wandered down the narrow path until I was confident Dante wouldn’t hear without straining. I even made an effort to peer over the overgrowth just to make sure I couldn’t see him, and sure enough I couldn’t… But I was sure he could see me no matter what I did.

I fell back on my soles and let my hands slap my thighs in nervous anticipation of what was to come. “How have you been?” I asked in a useless attempt at small talk. I shouldn’t have to try small talk with Bianca, I thought, the girl helped the people trying to kill me. She must have known they’d do the same to me as what they done to Austin if they had the chance.

Bianca nodded slowly to herself as an indication of how everything had been. Alright, things had been going well. She didn’t have to deal with death and being on the run and people out to hurt you. Or maybe she did have the latter, because I was sure many people wanted to hurt her and her dad.

“I’m just going to get to the point,” She muttered to herself as she wiped her palms nervously over her stomach.

Before I let her continue, I felt questions spill out. “Does your dad know you’re here? How did you find Dante and I in the park?”

Her eyes widened ever so slightly. “No, no,” She insisted, “he doesn’t know. And I followed you.” How could I trust that, I thought? How could I trust he didn’t know and how creepy was it that she followed me. “No malicious intentions, I swear.”

Despite all that’d happened, she hadn’t lied to me once. Bianca had always been honest, never manipulative despite all that hate she seemed to develop for me over the past half year. “We should hurry,” I said, prompting her to get on with it.

She nodded nervously and looked down. “I just want to warn you. For the last time I just want to look out for you and tell you to get out while you’re ahead. I heard Dante isn’t alpha anymore, so neither are you. You can’t leave him if you abide by werewolf laws but I can deal with that, but leave Mateo with him. Get out before the hunters get you.”

I crossed my arms as I absorbed her words. Words of warning but I couldn’t understand why they were coming from her. “Before you get me?” I said.

Bianca appeared to grow frustrated as her cheeks reddened and she breathed deeply. “Riley, I’m here as an old friend-.”

“-An old friend that not three months ago didn’t care if I died or lived when I got involved with Austin and Dante,” I commented moodily. It was true.

She nodded in understanding. “I was angry and when my dad and I left Mateo I came to better terms with it. I don’t have to like this, I don’t have to like werewolves, but I do like you and I have to remind myself you’re still Riley. I don’t want you to get hurt.”

For a moment I checked again to see if Dante was listening and then resumed the conversation when I failed to see him anywhere in sight. I turned back to Bianca and asked impatiently, “Why would I get hurt? I’m not connected to an alpha in any way now, so they can’t use me for their Wolf Moon. Dante as well.”

Bianca looked hesitant as she conjured an answer in her mind. “I don’t know their exact plans but I do know they’re mad. They’re mad about Austin and they’re mad about the Wolf Moon. Or, rather, it’s not the hunters who care about you, it’s the Thorns. They don’t care who you are, what you own – they just want you dead.”

“They can just be mad, then,” I muttered.

She shook her head. “No, Riley. I’m sorry I don’t have more to say but I just wanted to let you know the situation and where I stood. Promise you’ll pick up if I call you?” She asked. “If I call you, I promise it’ll be important. No one knows I’m here today. This is a risk for me.

I thought for a moment and became aware of the metal lump in my pocket containing Bianca’s blocked number. I’d have to unblock it first before she could do that. I nodded up at her in response. “Alright. I’ll pick up. But don’t expect us to be friends straight away… Or at all.”

“No, of course not,” she replied as she fiddled with her own phone and tossed it between hands. “I’ve got to go. Please be careful,” Bianca said before blindly retreating in the opposite direction of the one she’d came. Her eyes looked sad and her lips downturned. I got the feeling she hadn’t told me everything she wanted to say.

I raised my hand to wave but by the time I’d conjured the action, she had turned and out of sight. That was all entirely unexpected, I thought.

Dante appeared a moment later as if on cue, and then I knew he’d been listening. He approached with a guilty grin, appearing anything but sorry. “You,” I said, “I told you not to listen – it could have been private.”

He scoffed a little. “What would she have said to you now that she couldn’t have said in front of me?”

I curled my lip. “You intimidate her, clearly,” I muttered as I shoved him away by the shoulder.

Dante looked pleased with that answer as he puffed up his chest. “Intimidating?” he boasted as he gazed down on himself. “But back on Bianca, I don’t like her. Seems like a bit of a snake – best to avoid.”

He deserved another hit for that, I decided, as I smacked his shoulder. Dante scrunched up his eyebrows in confusion and shrugged. “If I say she seemed sincere, you have to believe me,” I said, even though I didn’t quite believe that myself. Bianca and I were like peanut butter and jelly, so I couldn’t imagine not trusting her. As I thought before, despite all that had happened, she’d never purposely lied or deceived me.

Dante nodded as he dropped his head to his feet. “Whatever. She’s gone now. I don’t expect you’ll pick up her calls either,” he said.

I shook my head. “No, I’ll pick them up,” I replied.

Dante looked confused as his face contorted in weird ways that detracted from his handsome features.

I explained without question, “I’ll at least hear what she has to say,” I said but that wasn’t all. Bianca wouldn’t come here without her father knowing unless it were something important, something she felt strongly about. Bianca was concerned for my safety. If she were concerned now out of all other times she should have been concerned, that was reason to worry. What was going to happen? Had she heard something we hadn’t? Or, I thought cautiously, is this an attempt to trick us?

If she were being honest, then of course she’d heard something of concern, but I wasn’t so sure on how to get the information out of her.

Internally I felt a blip of happiness. Bianca had spoken to me, and not to make a threat. I could forgive all she’d done in the past, I thought. I couldn’t help who I was and neither could she – we had a natural rivalry. Bianca had a controlling father who could get her to do all he wanted. If she were sincere, this proved she had a mind of her own and that she still cared for a werewolf like me.

“This date didn’t go well then,” Dante muttered in between our thoughts in the same spot Bianca had left me in.

I disagreed. This date had went great.

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