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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21. Chapter 21

A little past four that evening I stood up from the small wicker chair positioned close to my window and stared out at the wall of Mateo forest. After a few motionless seconds, I began to make my way towards the wall mounted full-body mirror closer to the door.

I looked myself up and down; my hair was sitting limply over my shoulders after I had somewhat attempted to style it, my shoulders fell forward as I refused to stand taller, and my body was draped in my formal clothes of which consisted of straight legged trousers with a crease down each leg and a fancy blouse that blossomed in ruffles around the neckline. It wasn’t my style, but if I were left to dress in my own style I’d be rocking jeans and a t-shirt.

Softly I heard a knock at my door. That was Dante, I thought, just before he called out, “hey, are you ready?”

I’d been ready for over half an hour, I just wanted to put this off for as long as I could. My mom and her good ideas, I thought – I hadn’t liked it the first time around when she’d invited the Dimera’s, so why she thought I’d like it the second I had no idea. Yes, I said it, tonight we were having dinner with the Dimera’s, and presumably Austin too.

The door opened without my response, but I still stared blankly in the mirror with little thought in my head. My eyes snapped to Dante’s via the mirror, his form standing there clad in similar straight legged trousers and a white starchy shirt. He’d combed his hair back so you could see the full scale of his beautiful forehead I often didn’t get to appreciate.

“You clean up nice,” I commented as he grinned at me in the mirror and approached me from behind with his hands leaching out for my hips. I let my eyes wander before he obscured himself behind me completely. “We need to go on a date some night just so you can dress up again.”

His lips formed a doubtful expression as they turned inwards at the suggestion. “I’m not a fan of the trousers, honestly, but you,” Dante said as if he hadn’t seen me looking any better, “you look gorgeous.”

I spat a small laugh as I leaned back into his hold and tipped my head onto his shoulder bone. “That’s almost an insult – I look terrible,” I muttered as I fingered the ruffles that kept getting in the way.

His large hand reached out for a second and clamped over my own that kept picking at my clothes before gently resettling them with his own over my waist exposing most of my figure to the mirror. “Not in the slightest,” he gently replied as he leaned forward and laid a small kiss on my cheekbone. “I’ll have to be extra vigilant of the other guests your mom invites tonight.” Suggesting anyone but him would realistically be interested. Yeah, okay.

I turned in his arms so we were front to front, letting my own arms rest over his hips and joining behind his torso. “Speaking of which, who else do you think will be there?” I asked as I came eyelevel with his chin. “There’ll be the immediate Dimera family, I know. I got too angry to ask for the full guest list when mom told me.”

Dante laughed airily as his hands began to stroke the small of my back. “Ben and Megan too, I think. Not a lot of people, don’t worry.”

I pursed my lips as I thought for a moment and then said, “Hard not to worry when there’s going to be a small congregation of all the hunter and Santoro enemies in one house for the night. What we need next is for Kris Touren to turn up and then we’ve got all the alphas of Mateo.”

“Unless Lay and Ethan are also invited, there won’t be all the alphas of Mateo,” he muttered.

I couldn’t help but make myself reach out to slap his upper arm in offense at his joke. “Don’t even joke about that,” I replied harshly. “They’ll never be true alphas.”

Dante seemed to realise his mistake immediately and passed me a small apologetic smile as he began to dip his head to steal a kiss. I slipped my hand between us before he could land one and laughed in his face. “You can’t just fix everything by trying to kiss me,” I teased.

He shrugged slightly and asked, “And what if I just want one?”

I shrugged too and unlatched my arms from around his body and took a step back, standing flat against the mirror. “Then you’re just going to have to want one,” I retaliated.

His eyes read like a dogs that begged for treats, only unlike a dog he knew his boundaries and it began to simmer. I took in his body that looked prepped to step away and back off, his head twisting to glance at the door prepared to leave.

Before his body could set off I reached out and took hold of his neck, having to stand tall on my toes with Dante too surprised to move. My lips connected softly with his for the first time in days as I pulled him so close that I ended up back against the mirror, the frame battering against the thin walls.

Dante responded like he truly didn’t expect it, which only made me smile against his mouth. I let my hands dig down around the base of his shirt, pulling it out from beneath his belt so I could touch the bare searing flesh of his abdomen. Finally, he began to kiss me back.

Such a tease, I thought as my other hand trawled over his sharp jaw and began to mess up his perfect hair. I knew he’d have to reorganise himself again once we were done. I almost felt sorry that I’d ruined his efforts, but certainly not sorry enough to stop.

Dante broke free for a moment to breathe, his eyes wide as he peered down at me like he were looking down at someone else. “What happened to me just going to have to want one?” he asked quietly with traces of emotional whiplash.

The two upper buttons of his shirt were undone allowing me to gently brush my lips against his neck as I breathily said against him, “I said nothing about me wanting a kiss though did I?”

We just stood and held each other in silence for a few more minutes, in peace and comfortably at ease with one another. It felt good to be with each other like this, as if nothing else mattered. My thoughts still wandered, they still worried – but that was purely background noise, much like everyone else I knew right now.

My main worry at this very moment? Austin was going to arrive with his family in less than an hour. It would be my first time seeing him since he’d been locked up, my first time seeing him in a functioning state assuming he’d gotten better. I could assume he’d gotten better right?

My father would be there too. I remembered briefly hearing my mom talk the other night, some of her pointless conversation turned to my dad. Not only was he coming for dinner tonight, he’d also be bringing his things home too. Mom and dad had officially made up, and dad was moving back in.

It wasn’t like he’d even really moved out though anyway.

That just made it an even more important night for my mom – she was welcoming back her husband and hence welcoming back normalcy. Nothing could go wrong, I thought, otherwise I knew my mom would be upset and not just upset for a few hours.

As I focused purely on the sensation of Dante in my arms, I tuned into the noises downstairs. Tickling my ears, the doorbell began to ring.

***

My mom and dad stood side by side like a husband and wife who’d never loved each other more. On both their faces they displayed pseudo happy smiles that began to waver out of tiredness, waving and repeating the same lines of welcome as more guests began to arrive. Dante was on door duty; opening and closing the door as people came and went.

I stood by the stairs, leaning comfortably on the banister as I watched the chaos. My mom truly hadn’t thought this through and I could only guess that she’d gotten carried away when inviting friends and family.

Even Aunt Judy was here – the same Aunt I hadn’t seen since the day my father was taken to the hospital – the same aunt that hadn’t taken me home to her house and instead entrusted me to the Dimera’s. I indirectly blamed her for complicating things, and so I couldn’t smile when she stepped through the threshold of the house just half an hour earlier.

Dante smiled meekly over his shoulder at my sulking figure. “Don’t look so down,” he encouraged, “You look a lot prettier when you’re smiling.”

I tried to smile back but we were still waiting on one group of guests arriving. Ben and Megan were here, Aunt Judy was here, dad was here, and even Kris Touren and his beta were here. Our small dining table could barely sit a small family, so half of the guests were scattered in the living room – most without a seat.

Dante’s nose began to twitch and in that second I knew they were here. I tried to tune into the scent but caught very little – only the typical rogue scent that I found hard smell the source of, and of course the faint smell of Dimera that would gradually be fading from their persons.

I caught Bancroft too, radiating softly from Dante. He too hadn’t fully shed his Bancroft scent, but that was coming.

Dante opened the door before any of them could knock.

At the front of the group that stepped through the door was Rose. My mom grinned genuinely and opened her arms to welcome the woman into a hug. Behind her was Mr. Dimera who brooded like this was the last place he wanted to be. He and my father didn’t exchange a word.

As those two stepped through the door, it left space for Simone and Austin to emerge but neither did. I glanced at Dante and passed a questioning expression.

“He’s definitely here,” he muttered reassuringly as he held onto the door.

They appeared moments later, slowly up the steps like every step was painful. Simone and Austin linked arms like Simone was a crutch.

I’d long passed the stage of jealousy with Simone, and so when I saw them together I only felt truly and heartbreakingly sorry. I done this, remember? Austin ended up like this after saving me.

Dante ushered them inside and shut the cold evening air out the house.

Austin and Simone stood together for a few seconds, Simone gently patting creases out of Austin’s jumper because he looked far too pained to do it himself after the struggle to ascend the steps. If he’s too ill to walk, why is he here, why isn’t he using a crutch? I asked myself.

Austin consciously batter Simone’s hands away after a second and tried to straightening himself without any help. His eyes connected with mines in that very second for the first time since the whole ordeal, and we both paused like deer caught in headlights. His usually bright and cheerful green eyes were dull and sore. He awkwardly tried to flick his gaze away, but it wasn’t working when there was little place else to look.

“I’m sorry,” was the first thing that slipped out of my mouth.

Austin opened his mouth to respond, but seemed to stumble over his words. In those seconds I looked over his face – still littered with cuts and bruises that were on the mend. “Nothing to be sorry for,” he quietly replied as our parents without a care for their children filtered away into the kitchen.

Just like how Dante didn’t like my apology, Simone didn’t like what Austin had said. I knew what she was thinking, she was thinking ‘Pft, she has everything to be sorry for – if it wasn’t for her I wouldn’t have been without my mate for months and he wouldn’t be hurt like how he is right now.’

I knew that well without her having to say it out loud.

“How are you doing?” I asked between the awkward silence that ensued, and the question almost made it worse. It was obvious how he was doing – he could barely walk and he looked like shit. That was how he was doing.

Austin shrugged, but winced after the action as if it pained him. Simone instinctively came to his side and laid an arm on his waist. “I’m doing fine,” he replied like there was nothing else to it.

After all that he couldn’t just be ‘doing fine’ I thought, and made a mental note to ask more later when perhaps both Simone and Dante weren’t around.

My mom suddenly appeared behind us and coughed to catch our attention. “We’re beginning to serve some food. Hungry?” she asked as if we had a choice in whether we ate or not. I knew I never had the choice.

I peered behind me at Dante and then Simone and Austin. They looked at me to serve the reply as if they’d all follow my lead. I turned back to my mom and smiled, nodding me head. “Of course!”

But I didn’t feel like I could swallow a single mouthful.

***

It was a while before I could get Austin alone, or at least take Simone off Austin’s arm like an overprotective guard dog, except this guard dog resembled more a Chihuahua than a Pitbull. I could understand her – I’d be the same with Dante if something were to ever suddenly happen to him and then to have him return someday even though you expected him to be dead. You’d never want to let them out of sight.

That opportunity came up when the dishes were due to be done and Megan was summoned to the kitchen to help my mom and Mrs. Dimera. Megan, still good friends with Simone much like how she was with me, dragged Simone against her will to help out too.

Dante excused himself five minutes prior to use the bathroom, and I could hear him talking in the hall with my dad who was surely giving him a dad speech now he was home and it was his place to do so.

That left Austin and me alone, for the first time in the whole night on opposite corners of my living room. Austin purposely avoided my gaze as if he thought I was going to bite him.

“Hey,” I said softly, hoping to at least ease him into honest and open conversation. “You’re not okay, are you?” I suggested.

Austin’s head whipped in my direction like I’d just slapped him. “I’m fine. Nothing time won’t heal.”

“It’s a lot harder to heal the things you can’t see,” I muttered in reply, ebbing at the mental scars I knew he’d wear as a result of what happened. “I just want to know… No one’s really told me – I mean, I don’t have to know but-.”

Austin interrupted me, sounding rather annoyed as he said, “You want to know what they done to me?”

Spot on, I thought, as I nodded my head softly and tried to gauge a reaction from his blank face that more than usual seemed void of expression.

Austin sighed softly as he elaborated in saying, “Honestly, not much.”

“That’s not an explanation,” I retaliated as I became the one to get annoyed. “I just need to know. I’ve been tearing myself up about it and I know it would have been me if you hadn’t done what you did that night.”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” he quickly spat back.

I waited a second and watched as he failed to crack the slightest visible expression. That was enough of a response though – the mere fact he didn’t want to talk about it made it clear how painful it must have been in every sense. “I’m thankful, you know,” I said slowly.

He nodded. “I know.” Austin refused to look my way.

“Dante’s thankful too, of course. And I’m more than sorry to Simone.”

“I know.”

I sighed in frustration as his basic replies and asked, “Can you say anything more than ‘I know’?

“Clearly not,” he replied sarcastically.

I clapped my hands once in finality as I got to my feet and took a step forwards towards Austin’s slouched figure on the two seater couch on the opposite side of the room. “Everything will begin to fall into its place. You’ll be with Simone and your family, you might even become a Touren. Your family might choose to move off and settle down as rogues in another town. As for me and Dante, we plan to live quietly. Be with our families and stay away from packs and all that nonsense. I really do think you should do the same,” I said.

Austin nodded in agreement, his face lifting slightly to reveal softer eyes. “We plan on it. I don’t want the pack back, Ben can have it – he’s doing a good job,” he admitted. “Simone seems keen on just getting out of here too.”

“I don’t suppose leaving together would be a good idea, you and Simone and me and Dante?” I asked hoping to crack a laugh out of him. For the first time he connected gazes but he only looked at me as if I were stupid. “I was joking. That’d be a terrible idea,” I muttered.

If all four of us were together, it’d be easier for trouble to spot us. We wouldn’t be safe.

“The hunters are still out there though before any of us can leave Mateo,” Austin replied with a dose of realism.

I nodded. “They are, but the Thorns are gone. Hilary and Kelly have returned to California. They’ve left only a few hunters in charge and they don’t seem nearly half as threatening as the bunch they brought last time.” I paused for breath and waited for a sign to continue. Austin nodded for me to go on so I said, “Dante and I don’t have much power anymore. The most we can do now is run while they’re not looking, with the help of a few people.”

“And so that’s what you’re planning to do?” Austin asked curiously as if he was surprised. “I mean, can’t say I was planning on fighting off the hunters but I thought you and Dante would at least settle some loose ends here first.”

I gave him the same look he’d given me earlier. Be realistic, Austin, I thought. “We have nothing but each other to protect. No pack to defend or anything even tying us to Mateo anymore. We could fight, but why fight when it’s be easier and safer to just run.”

The night was full of firsts as I watched a small smirk break way over the corners of Austin’s mouth. “Stop making more sense than me, alright? So how do you plan on distracting the hunters?” He asked. “And what about the other problem Dante has, with the Santoro pack and stuff?”

I laughed nervously. “Honestly?” I asked as I glanced behind my shoulder at the still shut door. I could hear footsteps on the floor. “I have no idea. We’re just taking it as it comes. The hunters and the Santoro pack seem to have teamed up so I imagine the answer to both lies in one solution. That was their mistake.”

That’s definitely Dante, I thought as I heard his voice call out to someone else somewhere in the house. Austin heard it too and receded into the mood he’d been in before as if it were a mask he could take on and off. “Anyway, from now there’s no reason for us to see each other. The Dimera’s, the Bancroft’s, and the Kerr’s. None of us need to see each other. You’d agree that’s for the best?” He asked quickly before Dante could interrupt us.

I backed towards the door and laid my hand on the knob in case Dante decided to surprise us both by sneaking up on the door. As I thought over what Austin said, I couldn’t help but agree. He was right. It was safer if Dante and I avoided the Dimera’s. We realistically should have nothing to do with each other now. “You’re right.”

“Of course I’m right,” Austin muttered under his breath.

I chose to ignore the comment and nodded to myself. “Look, the mess left in Mateo is what Dante and I have left behind. You and Simone need to get out of here as soon as possible. If you stick to what you’re saying, we should never see each other again.”

Austin didn’t seem to care about the suggestion of never seeing each other again, but it hurt me deeply as I felt a pang in my chest. This was someone I’d grown so close to over nearly a year and someone who’d hurt me so badly on many occasions. How could he let go of someone like that so easily? Was he really okay inside? “Without you even telling us, Simone and I had planned to leave for my grandfather’s abandoned ranch up north next week. My mom and dad are coming too, and so is Kris Touren for a while just to help us settle down.”

I almost felt insulted. Although now I was telling him to leave – for his own benefit – it felt insulting to know he had planned it anyway and probably wouldn’t have said if he wasn’t invited here tonight and if I hadn’t initiated conversation. “That’s great, I hope you live well,” I replied as I turned swiftly to face the door. There went my good emotions.

Before I could finish twisting the knob I heard Austin call out from behind, “We’re good though, right?” he asked.

I nodded, still facing the door. “We’re good,” I replied before I pulled the door into my body and sidestepped it out into the hall. Dante wasn’t in sight. “See you later, Austin,” I called before I shut it behind him knowing fine well if things went how we’d discussed, I’d not see him after today and if he did go to his grandfather’s ranch in a week’s time, then…

If plans went accordingly, we’d never see each other again and that was the way it was supposed to be.

I felt the first tear in days slip down my face, and then facing me by the front door was Dante who after all must have been listening in for at least the last part. Wordlessly he opened his arms to welcome me into a comforting but slightly annoyed hug.

 

 

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