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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2. Chapter 2

“Where is he, Dante?” I yelled in frustration, following him around his modest home like a lost puppy. He was dancing around the subject and I gradually became convinced that even Dante didn’t know where Austin was.

Since the attack, the Bancroft pack had recommended everyone but the eldest males of the alpha family leave town as a tactic to stay safe. The Bancroft pack was now scattered around Wyoming with their extended families for the foreseeable future. Dante had been alone for a lot of the time, it seemed, with maybe a few helping hands coming and going here and there. It’s not like his pack was huge and there were many able bodies. He had a few men who could help, but not an army.

Times like this I forgot Dante was the new alpha with more than his own life to worry about. He had a couple hundred people waiting for his next word.

Dante raked through papers on the computer table and didn’t say much. “Can you be quiet for just a second?” he muttered.

“For heaven’s sake,” I growled, feeling all that built up emotion swirl back and fall straight into the forefront of my mind. “I haven’t seen you for months! I’ve been living under a rock against my will trying to act normal and hide everything from my mother, and you’re asking me to wait a few more seconds? I’m done waiting Dante, and you know what? You’re an asshole!” I raised my fist and slammed it against his chest, hoping he felt hurt, but he looked… blank.

“Riley-.”

“No, Dante! If you were going to leave me, you should have left me, if you were going to keep me, you should never have let me go in the first place – and for such stupid reasons! How could going back to the human world help me or help you for that matter?” I felt like I was falling apart, like the emotions frozen over were melting and as they dripped they formed a puddle that soon spilled over. “You’re selfish, you’re rude, you don’t care for me, and you don’t care for Austin!”

As the tears fell over my cheeks, my legs began to give way. Before my emotions could hit rock bottom, Dante pulled me close and held me tight – and I didn’t have the energy to fight back. He whispered in my ear words that I couldn’t decipher over the own noise in my head and stroked my hair gently like he’d never left me all this time and we’d been together every second of every day. I thought of us together every second of everyday, forever. “Shhh,” he whispered, his warm embrace holding me together, otherwise I might have fallen apart.

“Stupid,” I sobbed through tears.

“I know, I know, it’s all going to be alright,” he replied, taking no insults to heart as the warmth spread through us both.

I shook my head, still held to his chest by his palms. I mumbled into his shirt, “Not if we can’t find Austin. It’s already been months.”

Dante pulled my head back and looks at me softly. “What do you think I’ve been doing this entire time? Knitting? Other pack members and I have been working with Dimera to locate his son. We’ve found him, or at least we think we have.”

I sniffed and slopped up my tears by hand. Dante laughed softly and raised his shirt to wipe my eyes. I felt guilty as I saw his damp shirt. “Is he far?” I asked.

“Well he’s not in Wyoming.”

I flinched in fear. Out of Wyoming was a major disadvantage.

“He’s not in Wyoming?” I questioned.

Dante shook his head and immediately tried to set facts straight as he saw my face sink. “He’s in next state – he’s in Colorado.”

“Why Colorado… And why haven’t they killed him yet if not to use him as bait?”

Dante took a step back and waved the papers around that he’d pulled from a pile on the desk. “I was getting to that.”

Well he could have got to it sooner, I sourly thought. How long had he known Austin’s location? Was it really that important to not have me around as he worked?

He handed me what appeared to be a photocopy of a page in a book. I scanned the page quickly. “Wolf Moon?” I asked as I read the page title.

Dante shoved a few more papers into my hand and signalled to keep going.

Hunters have long been superstitious and standing by their myths and legends. A Wolf Moon is a holiday in the werewolf community that’s followed by a hunt and celebration to all things werewolf, however the hunters see this holiday differently; The Wolf Moon to them, is something they, at all costs, must stop. The Wolf Moon occurs over the second decade of every 500 year period.

In hunter myths and legends, there’s a story of the werewolf gods rejuvenating the werewolf population on the celebratory Wolf Moon and will grant five hundred human babies the power of the alpha werewolf to completely human parents – repopulating the werewolf community. To hunters, they believe this act cannot be stopped by anything other than a sacrifice to the werewolf gods of an alpha blood – anyone with the blood of an alpha using the ceremonial Wolf Moon blade.

The origins of the Wolf Moon have been long disputed, but many believe it originates from a mass rising of new werewolves many centuries ago believed to be around 500 AD in the midst of a dying population of natural born werewolves. It was hence celebrated as a holiday every 500 years, and the customs have since defined the specific festive dates to be in the middle of the second decade of each 500 year time frame, however, a wolf moon technically lasts the entire decade.

No solid articles or evidence has been recovered to prove or disprove a wolf moon and the celebrations have long since seized in modern packs – the holiday thought to be outdated and old fashioned, however hunters wait anxiously for the Wolf Moon, to see exactly if myth could become fact.

“Dante, this is ridiculous.”

“It’s plausible,” he reasoned.

I shook my head and gave him back the paper. “He was taken because he was there at the wrong time. They want me, they were after me to hurt you.”

Dante ran his hand through his blonde hair and sighed. “It’s plausible. They could have taken Austin to use for this Wolf Moon sacrifice. If they were initially after you, it’s only because you’re now also in the alpha family and an easy target – hell, you’re still an easy target assuming Austin isn’t already dead and they’ve completed their sacrifice.” Dante laid a hand on my shoulder and gave it a squeeze. “No one talks about the Wolf Moon anymore because we simply don’t care. No wolf believes werewolf children will be granted to human parents, but you know how hunters are and how paranoid they might be. I’m almost 100% certain it’s why they’ve taken Austin.”

I shook my head slightly and let my eyes drop to the ground. “Why do you think he’s even still alive, and why Colorado?” I asked curiously.

Dante replied simply, “I’ve not just been twiddling my thumbs since you left. I’ve contacted a few other packs – and one thinks they’ve spotted him passing through a town in Colorado with a couple of hunters. Why they haven’t killed him yet, that’s the question.”

“They’re toying with us,” I thought out loud. “That’s why they haven’t killed him yet. They get to play with the son of an alpha and torture everyone who’s trying to save him and have their sacrifice in the end too.”

I watched Dante nod his head as he agreed. “They have an entire decade according to the Wolf Moon myth. They could drag this out as far as the year 2020.”

It begun to make a slither of sense. “I was an easy target,” I muttered, “While I was standing alone at the lake, they could have easily taken me if it weren’t for Austin.”

Dante leaned forward with the world’s sincerity in his eyes and put his forehead against mine. “And for that I owe him my everything.”

I frowned – I didn’t want him feeling burdened. “I’m pretty sure as long as you save his butt, you’ll be good to go.”

Dante pecked me on the lips and grinned. “I missed you, Riley.” He kept still, letting me explore the depth of his eyes.

“Then never let me go again,” I replied.

***

I woke up the next morning sprawled out on Dante’s bed wearing some of his clothes. With my eyes still closed, sensitive to the daylight, I slapped my hands around his large bed and discovered he was already up.

“As gorgeous as you look lying there, we have to get ready,” Dante laughed as I felt the bed dip, his voice caressing my tired ears. My eyes fluttered open and I rubbed them tiredly. I was putting bets on me looking the polar opposite of gorgeous.

As I sat up, I spotted bags in the corner of the room and looked between Dante and the open bags. “What?” I asked, my brain too fussy to form proper sentences.

“Well, Austin isn’t going to find himself, now is he?”

Yesterday flooded back and I realised the situation at hand. I’d not once from the moment Dante left me on my doorstep months ago forgotten my worries, but now I’d woken up cleansed of every last one.

“My mother!” I gasped suddenly as I remembered I’d left her alone.

“She’s being taken care of,” Dante answered as he leaned over and took hold of both my hands and pulled me closer onto my knees. He pecks my lips, and I cringed at the thought of my very likely morning breath. “You’re seventeen now. You’re capable of thinking for yourself. Your mom knows this.”

“Uh-oh, I don’t like the sound of that,” I replied as Dante relaxed into me.

“By that I mean we’ll leave her a note and if she tries to approach the police I’ll have pack members sort it out and help your mother through. Plus you can phone her at any second at any hour on any day – don’t forget that. Of course, if that’s alright with you?” He took hold of both my hands in one of his and ran his other hand through my hair.

His words got lost in my head as I became distracted by everything about him. “How can anything not be alright with me when all I want to do is kiss you,” I answered without a thought, totally distracted by his eyes, nose, and lips. When he mischievously smiled, I added quickly, “And find Austin of course. I’d do anything.”

“I’ll take that as my cue.” His lips fell on mine, hurting in a desperate way that I didn’t even linger on. I clung onto him like he were my sun ready to float out of orbit. His hands ran up and down my arms, keeping me warm, leeching off his heat.

Our lips parted before his arms encircled me. Then I mumbled into his neck, “We really have to get on with packing.”

I felt him smile into my neck as he let go and shuffled backwards. With a sigh, he replied, “Yeah, well someone keeps distracting me.”

“Someone keeps distracting me.

Dante thrown some more random things into the bag and asked, “Should we go home and gets your clothes or just get on the road by the afternoon and skip the clothes part? I’m pretty sure we can pick up some cheap things on the way,” he explained.

“Uh, we’re going by road?” I asked before remembering my mother. “I probably should go talk to her… I mean, she’s appeared to be holding up really well since I got back but you can see something isn’t right. Maybe it’s time we tell her the truth.”

Dante stared as if I had another head. “Tell your mother… About werewolves?”

I shook my head frantically so he didn’t get the wrong idea as I clumsily got up. “No, no… We’ll come up with something else to cover that. But I think we should at least tell her where we’re going. A holiday, maybe?”

Dante nodded sarcastically and continued, “I’m sure a human parent would be completely understanding of her just seventeen year old daughter going away on holiday to a whole other state with a guy she’s never been introduced to before.” Dante leaned over and zipped up the already full suitcase. “Reminds me how well that ever went down in the past.”

“She won’t like it, but she won’t stop me – not after everything. And at least she’s somewhat reassured I’m not dead in a ditch somewhere and I’m with someone I trust.”

Dante stood and handed me my clothes from yesterday. “Go take a shower. Once you’re out I’ll take you home and we can both see your mom if you really think that’s what’s right. Someday we can tell her…” Dante trailed off as he grabbed the door knobs and opened it. “…About the werewolves.”

As he left I was left to my own thoughts in a swirl of chaos and confusion. My mother would rather take me in handcuffs and send me to the mental institute herself. I had no doubt that someday she would if I pushed her far enough.

She could tolerate the starving myself, she could tolerate my nocturnal behaviour that often involved midnight strolls through the forest, heck she could even tolerate my snarky attitude. If I were to introduce Dante as my boyfriend whom she’d never met and tell her without choice I was leaving for a holiday with him, she’d lose her head and then take my own head as she went.

Of course nothing would ever be simple so long as I let myself be connected to the human world. I had to cut all ties before I could ever be at peace with anyone, before I could be at peace with most importantly myself. I supposed my only tie was my mother, and my father had seemed to have severed that tie easily himself when he was turned. Which I was still confused over.

I washed up easily and came out, putting back on my dirty clothes and immediately felt like I hadn’t spent half an hour cleaning myself. As soon as I was done, I open the door slowly and entered the upper hall of the second floor. At the same time, a man Dante had named as Ethan came out another room. I hadn’t heard a peep from him the entire night I was here.

“Hello, Riley,” he sighed, sounding curiously hopeless. He walked towards the top of the stairs – shoulders slumped - and turned to face me. “I don’t suppose you’re also trying to rescue the Dimera?” he asked, expecting an answer he wouldn’t like.

I didn’t like him straight away, but I tried to be nice when I remembered Dante had very few friends so that must mean Ethan was someone I should trust. This guy would be more special than the rest – he was sleeping in Dante’s house.

I laughed a little. “Dante and I, we’re rescuing our friend, not the enemy.”

Dante’s friend turned around and began to walk away while saying, “There are no friends in Dimera-,” he paused, “No matter your past connections. You’re a Bancroft now… And that’s where you belong.”

I stared off at him in confusion as he escaped my sight. I knew I belonged here, I knew I wasn’t a Dimera – I never was. What exactly was his problem?

***

Dante and I marched up the steps to my house and we looked at each other, daring each other to knock first. We didn’t get to decide that far.

“Riley!” My mom yelled from the window beside the door. Uh-oh. The bolts on the door came undone and the door flew open. Before I could blink, I was in my mom’s arms. “You want to see me die, don’t you?” She whispered as she slapped my back – unsure if in a motherly way, or an I’m-going-to-hurt-you way.

“I’m sorry.”

She pulled back and frowned. “Sorry does not make me feel at all better, Riley. Do you realise how much I worried? I can’t have you disappearing anymore, not now that I have no one else.”

A year ago I would have told her she had dad, nowadays I could have told her she had her sister who might come visit, but that was the thing – might come visit. I could have told her she had me, but come the end of the day, she wouldn’t have me either.

I sighed loudly and looked anywhere but her face. “Why don’t we go inside? Mom, can you make Dante something to drink?” I asked. Someone might have thought I was being rude, but my mom was in her element when she had guests. I hoped it would lessen the impact when I told her what was going on.

“Oh.” My mom looked up at Dante and scrunched her eyebrows together. “Does Austin know about this?” She asked, not knowing what she was saying and the meaning it had to Dante. She knew of Austin and she knew he was a very good friend… or at least at one point. She had never met Dante and of course my mom had assumed Austin and I were more than friends. Even I could admit I once thought of Austin and I as more than friends.

Dante’s eyes became darker as he grabbed my side and pulled me to him. “Austin has nothing to do with Riley,” he grumbled like he really needed to defend himself.

He does, I thought. Austin had a lot to do with me, but Dante would of course never admit that.

“Oh,” she said again, looking between us. Then, realisation dawned. “Riley! You spent the night with a new boyfriend?” She glared firmly at the two of us. “When did you have time to meet boys recently?”

“Mom, I’ve known Dante for a while.”

With that, mom let us come inside. Ten minutes later, we all sat with drinks in our hands and both Dante and I sat across from my mother. She gave us a suspicious look. “If only your dad were here… He’d be giving you both a good talking to the second you arrived.”

The look on Dante’s face might have translated to my mom as ‘I’m confused’, because embarrassingly enough she explained the situation that Dante was already all too aware of. “Honey, Riley’s dad went missing a few months ago. He’s fine, though, somewhere. He’ll be back soon.”

He is fine, but he won’t be back soon.

Dante squeezed my hand as she finished talking and said, “I might as well get it out there – I’m your daughter’s boyfriends, and well, I’m talking her away with me for a little while.”

My mother raised an eyebrow and calmly took a ship of her coffee. “You are, are you?”

The calm now signified an even larger storm. I tried to intervene, but neither were having it.

“Riley, I think you should have at least chosen a man with some manners,” mom muttered in my direction.

“With all due respect, Mrs Kerr, you can’t stop us,” Dante replied, adding fuel to the fire. Now I realised Dante wasn’t used to normal human interaction, but this was clearly crossing a line.

“Dante-,” I cut in.

“With all due respect, I don’t even know my daughter’s boyfriend’s name and he’s already threatening to run away with her,” she said back. Of course, I hadn’t expected a reaction like the one she was having. I was expecting a break down to ensue, but that never did really happen.

“My name’s Dante, and we’re leaving.” Dante rose from his seat and pulled me up with him. Now I knew he had no intention of being the perfect future son-in-law but even I could only roll my eyes at the back of his head.

I shook my head gently but followed him out the living room door. “Dante, I can’t leave like this,” I said towards his back.

Dante ignored me. “You didn’t tell me how infuriating she is,” he mumbled as if he’d endured an hour not ten minutes.

“She’s just angry about everything that’s happened recently, and now we’re throwing this at her,” I said.

My mom didn’t come after us, she didn’t even walk us to the door. I couldn’t help but think maybe she’d just had enough – enough of the drama, enough of the stress, and really, enough of me. I flicked my eyes back at her and said as fast as I could, “I’ll call you. I’ll be back in under a week.”

“You want to bet on that?” Dante said more to himself as I realised we’d forgotten the clothes we were intending of grabbing before we left.

The front door slammed on us as Dante hauled me along to his car. “You mean we’re going to be away longer?”

Dante started the ignition and stepped on the gas. He gave me a look, his lips downturned and sighed. “Weeks? Try months.”

I shook my head frantically. “We get in, we get out. I don’t see what we’ll be doing in between that.” I ran a hand through my frizzy hair and leaned against the window as a small patter of rain began.

“That’s where you’re wrong. Colorado isn’t a small state, and really, we haven’t narrowed down Austin’s location as well as you might want to think. He was spotted passing through a town, not living in it. The pack we’re going to stay with is prepared to play host for a while.”

Everything remained quiet as I thought it all through. So in reality, we’re leaving with no inkling of what to do next? Going in blind? It just shown us both how desperate we’d become. I’d barely forgiven Dante and here we were diving in the deep end together. “How long will we be on the road for?” I finally asked as I spot the ‘come again’ sign on our way out Mateo and into the outskirts shrouded in forest and, well… more forest.

Dante shrugged and he used his phone in his other hand. “Maybe two hours until we’re out of Wyoming, but I’m terrible at navigation so don’t count on me for that.” He clicked a few buttons on his phone and then set it down on the dashboard. “I’ll have to rely on my baby.”

His phone made a funny noise, causing Dante to curse. He mumbled something about running out of battery.

“I hope you brought the charger.”

By the look on his face, I knew right then he had totally forgotten about it. With a laugh, I turned back to face the road and thought of the journey ahead. I tried not to linger on my mom who I left behind because all that brought me was guilt.

I could deal with that later, I thought. Austin was more important right now, right now when I was doubting whether this was a missing persons or recovery search.

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