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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20. Chapter 20

Dante and I got to his car faster than the time it took for Dante to answer that call just a moment ago. “What do you think Ben wants?” I asked, feeling a little lost as I thought back to when Dante’s phone began to beep frantically with texts and then suddenly his ringtone.

Dante ignored the question for a moment as he started the car and pulled rushed out the drive. “Ben and some of his people were doing their rounds on the Dimera territory and just playing their luck on the other side of the Dimera border is Lay and a few Bancroft guys. Ben did say he’d call if he ever saw them again. They’re currently talking, but Ben can’t do anything without challenging the werewolf laws because Lay isn’t on their territory.”

“But he’s threatening it,” I reasoned, just thinking how great it’d be to get him out of the way.

Dante smiled grimly. “Doesn’t work like that unfortunately. Ben isn’t risking anything, and it’d be breaking his trust if we were to.” He quietened for a moment as his face twisted at his thoughts. “Ben also let me know that Ethan is there – You remember Ethan, right?”

“The one you left in charge of your pack,” I recalled, remembering my first day back with Dante after Wolf Lake and meeting Ethan the next morning. Ethan was the one Dante had left in charge, the one who vocally expressed his dislike for Dante helping the Dimera’s. “He didn’t die?” I asked as I saw the vision in my head of that day – peering through the window with water streaming down. I couldn’t see a thing until I peeped my head through the window. I saw the black wolf then. The wolf looked dead… And then there was Lay standing over him showing us a message that we hadn’t quite got at the time. ‘I have the Bancroft alpha in the palm of my hand, watch me play with him’. Like a cat and mouse.

Dante shook his head. “Seemingly not. Lay has him right where he needs him though; Ethan isn’t a natural born alpha so of course Lay has the upper hand in terms of physical power. Ethan’s the puppet and Lay’s the abusive puppeteer.”

I breathed deeply and let myself sink down in the passenger seat. “Why doesn’t Lay take the pack for himself instead of controlling this Ethan guy?” More power and people for Lay, I thought.

“It’s complicated acquiring pack members who already have an alpha and pack. Bancroft now is already in pieces – half have ran, the other half left the pack ages ago. There’s no members worth much to Lay and Lay just wants to dismantle rather than acquire us, which is more infuriating don’t you agree?”

I nodded my head. I agreed.

The car sped up until we hit close to 50 miles an hour on the dirt tracks leading towards the area Ben had indicate we’d find them on. Dante slowed down as he peered through the window. “You’ll be glad to hear my senses are back 100%, and I can smell the Santoro’s a mile off in the sea of Bancroft, Dimera, and rogue. Lay’s close.”

He put the car in park and got out without another instruction. I followed behind him, failing to grasp the scent Dante had. I followed obediently behind as I failed to recognise where exactly we were.

It didn’t take Dante long to locate Ben who stood off from the main action. His hand raised up in a wave and beckoned us both towards him. I smiled contagiously at his expression that’d brightened considerably since last time. Maybe he was the type that revelled in other people’s drama, just like Kris Touren.

“Hey,” Dante called as he came within five meters of him. “What’s happening now?” He asked as if the update over the phone wasn’t enough

Ben shook his head. “They’ve been pretty silent. Lay’s asking for you.”

Dante’s expression darkened before I stepped in by his side and looked up as I let my arm stretch around him. “Of course he’s asking for me, he’s obsessed,” Dante commented, making Ben let out a hearty chuckle. “This is ridiculous.”

Ben grinned and signalled in the direction of Dante’s audience. “You said it, man.”

Dante only glanced in the direction of Lay, still far enough out of site. His eyes dropped only slightly and his lips tightened into a firm line. “Riley, do you want to stay here?”

I shook my head before he’d even finished the question.

He looked away before muttering, “Of course not.” Dante’s hand fell down by my side and instead of going for the wrist like he usually did when being impatient, he gently entwined our fingers.

Lay was no more than twenty meters away, I discovered, as the trees began to thin quickly and sensed the mild change in scent that indicated the end of Dimera land. It was a strange feeling, one I knew was part of a supernatural side of me. A side I’d yet to be properly acquainted with and of course that along with the presence of a threat brought out the fear in the form of sweat that began to melt off my forehead.

Lay’s form appeared through the dense shrubs across an invisible line that neither of us dared cross. He looked pleased with himself; a smirk followed by a raised eyebrow as he looked down at us both with a familiar figure standing bowed behind him. Ethan was here too… As expected.

“Dante,” he greeted, “Riley.” I could only bring myself to curl my lip at his looming figure. Dante remained a little more controlled as he wiped all emotion from his face.

Dante stood apart from me and looked directly over Lay’s shoulder at the man Dante had probably once considered a close friend if he ever had one. Lay caught on quick enough and glanced over his shoulder briefly before laughing. “You’ve met my new friend, right? He’s a chill guy,” Lay said, teasing Dante with Ethan who resembled an obedient dog.

Stepping back in place, I discreetly put my hand in his and became aware quickly of his fastening pulse that throbbed in anger. I watched as Dante gave off a pseudo grin. “I’m terribly curious about your actual purpose, because so far you seem to have no plan.”

Lay shrugged as he stepped back and in line with Ethan who cowered at the action. His clenched hands shook dangerously as Lay wrapped an arm over his shoulder. “We don’t need a plan. I have Ethan here, my good friend, as alpha of the Bancroft pack. Well, not much of a pack anymore. Ethan informed me this morning the last members of the pack had just completed the two full moons to join somewhere else. Sucks for them. Bancroft, member count – just one.”

“So you’re done here,” Dante urged, anger seeping into his eyes as his pupils dilated. I knew Dante didn’t care much about what remained of his pack – if anything I knew Dante would be happy to know some of his people were safe and out of harm’s way.

Lay smiled lightly as he shook his head. “I’m not done. I’m not done until you’re dead, Bancroft,” he promised.

Dante didn’t pay as much attention to the threat as I had expected. Instead, he tilted his head upwards and visibly sniffed the air. The man in front of us began to crack out a grin. “You smell like a hunter,” he commented absentmindedly, recalling suggestions in the past that Lay had something going down with them too.

Lay raised his eyebrows as if surprised. “Glad to see you’re fully recovered, Bancroft. Full senses and everything. Back when you were staying with me, I recall you hadn’t quite recovered them yet?”

Dante stared him down and narrowed his eyes. “What have you done?” he asked curiously, his pitch dropping ever so slightly as if he dreaded the worst. The worst in this situation, I thought… Well, that was almost unimaginable.

The man in front of us glanced over his shoulder away past Ethan who stood quivering in his boots. Dante ignored his once friend, and I knew we’d also have to deal with that too at some point. Lay began to show traces of a grin as he called behind him, “How about you take a step out and greet our friends?”

No, I thought, the worst wasn’t unimaginable. The worst was exactly as this was playing out to be…

Through dense shrubs and tightly packed trees, a figure evolved out of the shadows. They stood tall and strong, a face set in cold stone that told me who they stood for. Their figure rivalled both Lay and Dante’s and their eyes weren’t forgiving. I may not have recognised the face, but the closer they came and less the obstacles, the more I caught their scent like Dante had. Hunter, just like Shai. An unmistakeable hunter scent that even someone like me couldn’t miss.

But it wasn’t as strong as Shai’s had been. Their scent, again masked.

The cold face began to lighten; his eyes softening as creases appeared like crowfeet as a teasing grin developed on his lips. He and Lay shared a look before the hunter opened his pinched red lips to say, “Sorry man, thought it’d work this time.”

Dante shared a confused look with me, his eyebrows furrowed ever so slightly as he resisted the urge to scream and shout in frustration. Lay caught the look and explained, “Our friends are in the process of developing medicines to mask their scent. Been in the works for a while but it’s not effective for every hunter. Unfortunately Alex here is one of those people – his body likes to embrace the hunter.”

I shook my head as I taken it all in. Lay and the hunters were on the same page and the hunters hadn’t given in with their magical potions to do wonderful things.

Lay elaborated further. “Alex is a pretty cool guy though – he’s the guy in charge now here in Mateo seeing as the Thorns have went back to California. You know the Thorns, right?”

I eyed Dante as I considered a response. Hilary wasn’t here anymore, I thought… neither was her evil mom, Kelly. I let out a breath I hadn’t realised I held. Relief, I thought. That’s what I felt.

Alex spat a laugh. “If they were worried about the Thorns, they’ll be terrified of me,” he muttered.

A cold wind tore past us all sending me into a fit of shivers. Without asking, Dante stepped closer and enveloped me in a hug from the side. The heat rolled off him like an electric heater, sharing the warmth with me as I fell deeper into fear. I tried to return the favour, willing Dante to get stronger. I couldn’t tell if it was working.

“So what does this mean?” I asked, realising then I was a mere spectator. I didn’t want to be useless, I didn’t want to be a bystander and let Dante take the brunt of it. “Are you collaborating with hunters now, the people who’d kill you on a normal day?”

It was Alex rather than Lay who looked poised to reply, his mouth gaping between squeaks of laughter. “We have the privilege of being picky over who we choose and choose not to hunt. Lay and I share a common enemy.”

Dante spat an incredulous laugh. “That common enemy being me? Lay, you do realise you’re making a terrible mistake, right?”

Lay didn’t like that suggestion one bit, I thought, as I watched his face turn red in the cheeks and eyebrows straighten. His lips pursed as his tongue rolled over his teeth.

Adding fuel to the fire, Dante refused to lessen on his attack of words as he said, “Is this not too much just to bring me down? What did I ever do to you, Lay, and let me ask honestly. I mean, Riley and I left your land without a word because we didn’t want to make things worse or cause any arguments. I guess that had an adverse effect…”

Lay’s nostrils began to furiously twitch. “You betrayed my trust. You went against everything I told you. You stole my people. Sabitha and Samira fooled me for you. Must I go on?”

“How petty,” I muttered, “You’re like a child.”

His neck cracked angrily as his head snapped in my direction, his eyes ablaze. Lay looked ready to fire back a stream of insults when Dante interrupted. “You can’t argue with her, you could have forgot about us. Instead you’re wasting your time to come up here and almost doing us a favour by freeing me of my pack.”

A favour, I thought. I knew Dante could have lived a great life with a pack even if I’d prefer Dante and me to live just as the two of us. Dante could try and convince everyone all he liked that he didn’t care about the loss of his pack, but I still didn’t believe him.

The man across from us was totally enraged. His hands clenched and unclenched by his side, his teeth grinding and entire face turning brighter than a tomato. “That just tells me I’m not hitting you hard enough. You’ve not seen even a fraction of what I can do.”

“Or us,” The hunter, Alex, inputted looking pretty pleased with how everything was unfolding. “You know, we still need that Wolf Moon sacrifice after you stole ours.”

“Great, there’s your sacrifice,” Dante said, gesturing to both his old friend Ethan – the new official alpha of Bancroft, and Lay – the alpha of Santoro and unofficial alpha of Bancroft. “You can’t use us for those purposes.”

Alex laughed. “That’s true, that’s true,” he said as he looked up at Lay whose gaze darkened down at his hunter companion, “But we can’t just let you off after breaking into our base and stealing our hostage, now.”

Dante breathed deeply as I stuck my chin out and said, “Your base? Alright, if that’s what we’re calling it. Now tell us, what we can expect; more killing, more blood, more lies just to name a few things?”

“You bet, babe,” he replied.

My phone began to buzz silently in my pocket distracting me momentarily. The men all took their place in staring down each other as I glanced down towards my pocket and at the luminous mobile phone screen. The caller name read as Bianca. Finding a reason to call hadn’t taken long at all.

I looked up and thought if I didn’t answer now I’d call back as soon as possible. Just to end this as fast as I could, I said towards them all, “Look, we’re both busy, I hope you can relate. I assume neither of us are going to be ripping each other’s throats out just yet so in which case we should all part ways. We’ve talked it out and we’ve established that we all hate each other and we’re all going to die, yes?”

Dante lowered his brows in disapproval but let me continue. I knew he didn’t want to be here, and Bianca’s call had reminded me I had other things I could be attending to.

“We’re not going to die, you’re going to die-,” Lay tried to spit out but I wasn’t having it.

“No,” I interrupted, “we’ll find that out when it comes to it. You’ve proven to us now that you have the backup, now prove to us in the coming weeks that you have the balls.” Wow, I thought, I sure had courage today I thought as I backed off without turning my back. I waved a sarcastic goodbye and let Dante mutter a few final words before he followed me back in the direction of Ben who turned out to still be waiting on us.

Ben stood patiently with his arms crossed, staring off in the other direction. He twisted as he heard our approach and passed us both a gentle half smile. I stopped promptly in front of him and a second later Dante did too. “Go well?” he quizzed.

“Well, I thought so until Riley started to taunt them. You do realise he’s going to be really mad now?” Dante scolded, his eyes in particular conveying his emotion.

I turned my lips in on themselves and blinked a few times. “I was only following your lead,” I muttered as I turned away to head back to my mom’s car.

I listened in on the conversation as Dante filled Ben in as if he thought Ben hadn’t heard it all. He told him about Lay’s allegiance with the hunters and then some on his thoughts.

Rolling my eyes, I let my head fall back comfortably against the headrest. This was proving to be interesting. We hadn’t fobbed off the hunters just yet – our two enemies had aligned. That would make this easier, I thought. Two birds with one stone… They certainly weren’t thinking this through.

And Bianca, my mind reminded. She was also with the hunters. If I could trust her truly my confidence would rise so much in our chances of beating this.

Out of Dante’s sight, who was still busy talking to Ben outside of the car, I slyly began to text the girl Dante disapproved of. Bianca and I needed to talk about more detailed information – that’s surely why she was calling.

Meet me in the park around 6PM. Talk then?’

***

Bianca hadn’t replied to that text but I headed to the park she knew I was referring to at around quarter to six. The park was situated in the centre of Mateo, but wasn’t the same as the one Dante and I had visited just the other day. Bianca and I had visited here more time than we could count, purely because there was not much else to do together in this small little town when you didn’t want to bump into certain crowds.

I entered through the small open gate that would be locked at around 10PM by the local police. In front of me the grass stretched out in a blank field with a small winding path encircling the grass alongside the enclosing fence. On a weekend or in the early hours you might find some of the elderly strolling together or having a good time, but not at this time. It was only 6PM, but those in Mateo could never be cautious enough after the happenings of the recent year. Even in the middle of town.

My figure could only stand there, under a small lighting post not far from the entrance that flickered gently as it decided whether or not it was time to light up. The sky dimmed and as the face of my watch read the time as just after six as I began to get impatient, I considered that perhaps not waiting for a reply was a bad idea.

If Bianca didn’t turn up now, I’d have to go home and fob off another excuse to Dante when I decided to meet her again. Believe me, it was hard enough this time round.

I recalled half an hour earlier as I stood by the door and twirled the keys to the front door around my finger. I’d just told my mom that I wanted to go out on a walk like I might have done in old times and she smiled softly and gestured for me to hurry along and do as I wanted.

Dante, however, wasn’t as accepting.

“Walk?” he asked, “Since when have you liked walking?”

I stuck my chin out defiantly and rolled my eyes. “Ask my mom, I used to go out all the time to sort out my thoughts.”

He seemed to believe that though. “Well I’m coming too then,” Dante said as he reached out towards the coat pole just to his right and grabbed his jumper.

Without a second in between I’d reached out and grabbed his hand mid-reach. “No you don’t,” I warned, “I just want to go alone. Like I used to,” I explained softer.

Dante wasn’t happy, that was for sure, and if I pulled the same excuse again he really would go with me or not let me out at all.

Mid-thought my eyes caught glimpse of a figure just off the edge of the park towards the entrance. Bianca? I thought as my eyes adjusted. It is, I cheered internally as the light glistened off her soft featured and bright red hair. I waved in her direction as I watched her approach.

“I didn’t think you’d come,” I muttered as she stopped in front of me and gasped for breath like she’d run here. I caught the few beads of sweat that were formed on her head. “What happened?” I asked.

“Well,” she started as she urged me deeper into the park. I followed without question as I watched her expression. “You know how my dad doesn’t know I’m talking to you? Well I straight up garbage disposed my phone because he was trying to read my texts. He knows what’s up. He was convinced he could smell the Bancroft on me but Dante doesn’t even have that scent anymore – he just smells like a rogue so whatever it was my dad was smelling wasn’t from me. Either that or he’s getting so paranoid that he’s smelling things.”

Bianca sat us both down on a bench out of sight from the roads and away from any light. “And how do you know what a rogue smells like?” I questioned as I looked her in the eyes. She looked tired.

She shrugged. “I’m just assuming so. I mean, I don’t have any of those werewolf abilities but he has no pack and therefore shouldn’t smell like any particular pack. He should smell like a rogue, which I’ve heard is rather repulsive.”

I nodded in agreement. To think I smelled as bad as Sabitha and Samira’s father, who bore not only a rogue smell but also a hunter smell. “It is,” I said, “And I can only say what I’ve heard but in pack wolves, the different pack smells are very subtle. I can’t tell the difference between packs and sometimes Dante has a hard time,” I commented.

“There you go,” she said, “told you he’s lost it.”

We both fell into a comfortable silence and for a small moment I tried to enjoy having Bianca beside me like old times; like the times when she wasn’t on team kill-werewolves and I wasn’t on team kill-hunters as natural born enemies.

“So,” she began to say, “I assume you’ve already found out.” Bianca wrangled her hands as if it were something important. “Well, I know you’ve already found out – my dad told me. Lay introduced you to Alex,” she finally said.

“Oh, him.”

“Yeah,” Bianca laughed, “him. It was actually Alex who reached out to Lay first in case you were wondering.”

“Alex should do us a favour and kill Lay for the wolf moon and then come after us after if he want revenge for taking back Austin,” I commented as I thought about how great that’d be.

Bianca laughed under her breath ever so slightly as she smiled up at me. “The wolf moon isn’t actually that important to us, but I’m sure you also know that now too. It lets the hunters be reckless and extra bloodthirsty.”

I nodded. “Reckless alright, so reckless that you’re teaming up with werewolves – the very kind of people you’re out to kill.”

Bianca shook her head so vigorously that her hair fell onto her face. “But it’s happened, and here I am conversing with you too – you’re supposed to be my enemy. I’m a hunter. I’m with the hunters. If we worked things out, I could be partnering with you… The very person I’m supposed to kill,” she suggested quietly.

Partner? I thought. “What benefit would that bring either of us?” I asked, “Your dad would certainly be against it. You’d be the only person I partner with.”

Bianca smiled softly to herself. “But I see a lot, a lot more than you might think. I can tell you their every move and every word if I’m careful about it. You’d know where Alex and his hunters were at any time. I get to help you out of this and you get to live.”

I shook my head at the idea. “It sounds great… But Dante…”

“Dante doesn’t matter – he doesn’t have to know in the same way my dad doesn’t have to. I love my dad like how you love Dante but we both know they’re equally as stubborn and sometimes you just need to get things done yourself.”

“Alright, and what thing is it we need to get done?” I asked.

Bianca looked sure of herself as she nodded firmly and said, “Keep you alive. That’s all my goal is. Get the hunters off your back and keep you safe. Keep my dad safe. To make this end and go back to normal as soon as possible.”

“That sounds reasonable but admittedly farfetched. We’re both seventeen year olds who in a normal situation would only now be getting our first cars and trying to pass our final year of high school. Can we both really do that on our own?” I questioned.

Bianca twisted her neck to the side and peered off. “We’ll just have to find out. Do you really have any other options right now?” I shook my head. “I thought not,” she said.

How could I trust her? I thought. Bianca had been on team kill-me. She wanted me dead just as much as her fellow hunters. She set me up to die along with people I’d loved. Now, how could I believe that’d changed? “I can’t trust you,” I muttered quietly.

“I’ll make you,” she insisted, “I’ll prove it. I can’t say how right now but I’ll prove it to you. Tomorrow Lay and Alex are meeting again in my old house. Me and my dad aren’t staying there but we’re both going to meet them tomorrow. I’ll get some information – something important. I could even talk to Alex for you, he’s actually a reasonable guy-.”

I laughed sarcastically. “Oh, right, he seemed reasonable to me too when he was fawning over how beautiful my blood would look staining the dirt.”

“But disturbing when he wants to be,” she admitted. “I promise he doesn’t like Lay any more than he likes you and Dante. I promise he doesn’t even care much that you broke into the house and took Austin – he’s just looking for profit. If you can offer Alex more than Lay can…”

That didn’t sound right, I thought, as I said, “But what about the Thorns? Hilary and her mom? They wouldn’t have been swayed so easy – they seemed intent on killing every and all werewolf in Mateo no matter the gains and losses.”

Bianca shook her head. “Long gone. They both have matters to attend to in California. That doesn’t mean they won’t be back to look for you but I’m hoping by then both you and Dante will be out of here with no one following you. Alex is a whole different type of hunter, and he’s no Thorn lapdog. He won’t kill you just because they tell him to.”

Quietly I commented, “So after even all this we still have to tuck our tails and run.”

She smiled softly as she looked up at me. Bianca seemed ever positive as she replied, “But wouldn’t that be great – you’d be out of here. You surely remember how much we both talked about getting out of this town.”

I sure did, I thought. Out of Mateo when college rolled around, cruising the different states with new faces and no family breathing down my neck. Things had changed though and now all I wanted was to be able to stay in one place for a long time and not feel threatened into moving off. That’s what it was like in my own house when I was threatened to live with the Dimera’s, that’s what it was like in the Dimera’s when I was threatened with the hunters.

“Everything just feels like a punt. You’re trying to explain our next moves but I don’t even know what I’m going to be doing an hour from now,” I said honestly as everything began to feel hopeless.

Bianca laughed. “Me neither,” she admitted, “But isn’t that what makes this interesting? You have no clue what’s coming next. Don’t be too scared. I’m trying not to be.”

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