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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22. Chapter 22

I woke up that morning a couple days later with Dante below me – my leg was hoisted over his torso and my arm was sprawled across his chest. I peered up at his sleeping face, soft and peaceful, and couldn’t help but think this wasn’t a bad way to wake up especially when most mornings I didn’t feel like waking at all when faced with the horrors I dreamt the next day might bring.

So I just lay there, comfortable with forgetting but then reminded myself of all the things I didn’t want to be aware of. Those efforts strayed as I let my mind wander. Bianca, I thought, she surely would have made her move by now if she was going to move at all. After all, she did say she was on our side if that meant we’d get out of this mess alive. What are we waiting on, what should we do or not do before we hightail it out of here.

I certainly wasn’t 100% confident in what she could do for us though. Who did she know, what does she know, and what can she do? I wasn’t totally sure. It was our best line of hope… Or, I thought as I looked up at Dante who still had no idea I’d been speaking with Bianca, it was my best line of hope. If I could do anything for us, this would be it.

I reached over to my phone on the bed side table as my eyes hovered over the clock on the other side of the room. The time was nearing 8 AM, meaning my alarm was going to ring. Seeing as I was awake, I didn’t see harm in turning it off... Just so I didn’t disturb Dante who for a while hadn’t been sleeping great.

The phone unlocked in my palm with a small sound and there I saw a text received four hours ago during the night – the sender read as ‘Samira’. I smiled sadly as I wondered what she was going to say this time. I wanted to reply back, but only to tell her she should stop texting me. She knew any communication between us was now dangerous. Texting may have seemed safe to her but I wasn’t sure what anyone was capable of anymore and so of course I couldn’t risk it. I wouldn’t reply this time either.

I read the text, but I told myself I’d have to have read it anyway to delete it. Starting with a smiley emoticon, it read ‘Hey Riley. We’ve all arrived fine in a safe place. I hope you’re doing well? Please reply’.

I could only feel thankful she hadn’t specified her location, otherwise I may have felt tempted to visit, to escape with them. No, we couldn’t ever see each other again for everyone’s safety. I was sure of that.

I simply replied in my head, and convinced myself I’d actually sent the text. ‘Dante and I are doing great. We’re so happy you all are too. Can’t wait to see you all again!’

It was exactly as Austin had said yesterday – he was going to leave in less than a week and never be seen again by anyone who’d care to find him, essentially disappearing off the grid. That’s what I needed to do, it’s what we all needed to do.

And it’s what we were all going to do.

Dante began to stir, his breathing becoming irregular and his eyelids beginning to tense as his hand pulled out from under me and sleepily rubbed them.

“Wakey, wakey,” I muttered quietly as I rolled to the side giving him more room to get comfortable. “Eight hours without a stir,” I commented, “that’s bound to be a record.”

Dante gave a lazy smile as he laughed gently. “And I still feel like I could sleep for another hour or two.”

I returned the expression and let my hand hold his cheek as his blinked furiously to adjust to the morning light. “Don’t,” I quietly said as I slid the same hand up to cover his eyes, “just go back to sleep.”

And that’s what he did.

***

I sat at the table in the kitchen waiting on breakfast. Today was a simple menu; toast or cereal. Mom had finally got tired of the all-out fry ups, especially now she realised her guests had turned into lodgers. She couldn’t keep up false pretence that we ate like kings all day, every day.

My mom set a plate full of toast on the table, most of it burnt but she shrugged when I looked up at her with a raised eyebrow. “I don’t care anymore,” she said. “It costs so much just to feed all three of them every day, and Dante eats more than you and I do combined.”

I couldn’t help but quietly giggle. And after his extra-long sleep today, I was sure he’d be extra hungry and eat enough for me, my mother, and then quite possibly his sister.

My phone right then began to vibrate on the table and suddenly a feeling of dread overcame me. Was that Samira? Was she calling me to ask why I wasn’t answering her texts? The screen was face down, so as if the phone was on fire I cautiously picked it up.

I breathed a sigh of relief but tensed in a completely different way when I read that it wasn’t Samira, no, it was Bianca. She’d only call in our situation if there was something she really needed to say, and that suggestion made me feel worse than ever. Her call could mean a lot of things.

My ever watchful mom picked up the change in expression very quickly and turned to fully face me as she leaned back and crossed her arms. “Who’s calling?” she asked curiously, pointing her chin out at my phone.

I stared down at the screen as the call rung off and it shown I had one missed call. I couldn’t relax for even a split second before it began to ring again.

“It’s Bianca,” I muttered.

“Since when have you been speaking again with her?” my mom asked, still mostly unaware of why we stopped in the first place.

I didn’t get to reply to the question. I forced my finger to answer the call and held the phone to my ear like it might bite me.

“Finally!” Bianca’s voice called out in frustration, her voice cracking through a bad signal.

“Sorry,” I muttered in reply, but I certainly wasn’t sorry. “I got held up.” By my thoughts, maybe.

“Whatever,” she replied as she continued on like a racing train, “anyway, you need to come down here. With Dante.”

For a moment I didn’t reply as I thought about what she was asking. “Where, and why with Dante?” I asked suddenly feeling the fear.

I could almost imagine her impatient expression as she rallied a mile a minute. I could see her now, bouncing on her toes nervously as she too tried to muster courage. “I spoke with Alex. I told him everything,” she said, referring to the lead guy in charge of all the hunters and the situation now in Mateo. “He’s agreed to help us,” she said hurriedly down the phone.

That could only be dangerous. “And what did you tell him?” I asked as my voice dropped a few octaves.

Everything,” She repeated.

My silence on the other end spoke louder than anything I could have said. She told our biggest threat – the man in charge of the hunters and an ally to Lay – everything?

“Look,” She began, “he hates Lay as much as you and Dante do. He’s collaborating with him out of convenience and he’s no lap dog to the Thorn’s either. He won’t just do what they tell him to do, he’s his own person.”

“With a thirst for wolf blood,” I commented. “But so what, what does that mean?”

“It means,” she emphasised, “he has no personal vendetta against you or Dante or Austin, or anyone else who’s involved in your mess. His only goal is to complete the Wolf Moon and get it over with. If the Thorn’s want to continue pursuing you, they have to do it themselves… Or at least for all he cares. I mean sure, he wants to eradicate werewolves but he’ll let the smaller fish swim on by if it lures in the sharks. He obviously thinks you’d be useful.”

This was stupid, I thought. Bianca had told Alex that she was trying to help me. She was trying to save me, their enemy. That was dangerous for her more than anyone else. How could she trust him? How could she know he wouldn’t double cross her in return for this information to pass onto the Thorn’s? How could she know he wasn’t their pretty little lap dog?

“How can you vouch for him?” I asked quietly.

For a moment she was quiet before she asked, “Can you trust me?”

I made a noise down the line begrudgingly indicating my trust. That was good enough for her.

“Then trust when I say he won’t go back on his word. He won’t kill you or Dante.”

“But Lay will,” I muttered.

Bianca began to laugh. On the line I heard voices in the background, more laughter. I couldn’t figure out if she were laughing with me or whoever she was with. “No,” she finally replied breathlessly, “not if we kill him first.”

***

“Tell me where we’re going first,” Dante insisted as I gave him directions rather than an immediate location for him to drive towards. I would have drove, but I’d never quite gotten my license.

I shook my head, insisting he just wait and see. I mean, if he knew we were heading back to Bancroft land – his old family home – he’d tuck his tail and run. That was Dante’s thing lately, and as of recent I felt like we’d switched places. Dante wasn’t taking risks like he used to. Me on the other hand… I could be directing Dante to our deaths. I didn’t know. In the past few weeks we’d both just switched places.

Right now I didn’t even care that something bad might happen, I was just desperate for something to happen in this stagnant town.

“Turn right,” I said as I zoned in on the trail peeking out from the trees lining the main road out of Mateo. Dante would be stupid to not know now where I wanted to go.

He narrowed his eyes and slowed down to prolong the turning. “Why this way?” he asked, “Are we going to see Lay?” At least he had half an idea.

With little choice and a queue of cars building behind him, he quickly switched the indicator and swerved to the right and accelerated off. “I’m serious, Riley,” Dante muttered angrily but he couldn’t bring himself to not do what I asked.

“Just keep going,” I urged, and he did.

He took his own path from there, assuming it was his old house we were travelling too. That is where we were going; Bianca was already there with Alex and Lay. While Alex supposedly knew we were fast approaching, Lay was oblivious and that was the way Bianca and Alex wanted to keep it.

“Why are we going to see Lay… And Ethan?” he added as an afterthought, remembering his old friend who’d betrayed him. A pang of sadness wiped across his face.

“You’ll see,” was all I said.

The journey didn’t take long from there. Dante pulled up outside his old house, the small cabin-like structure that once housed his family and the memories he had with them, including those of his late father.

The scent hit us as soon as we opened the car door; the Santoro scent was stronger because it was foreign to our noses, and then lingering behind was the scent of Bancroft – one I hadn’t sensed much since Dante and I had transitioned to Rogues. The distinctive two scents reminded me that Lay Santoro wasn’t the alpha of the Bancroft pack – Ethan was in all technicality the official alpha and therefor the scent was essentially the same as before, with Ethan having always been a Bancroft wolf. Lay was nothing but a puppeteer with a thing for violence who’d snared the right weak alpha in his trap.

It made me realise Lay wasn’t a threat anymore when all he had to hold against Dante and I was Ethan and the ghost of a pack that once was. But I knew Lay and his persistence that brought him so far meant he’d die before letting us live. Two birds, one stone I reminded myself. At this point, dealing with Lay would get the hunters off our back long enough to leave town without a trace.

As if Dante had been listening to my thoughts, he began to talk as we approached the familiar door. “Look, I don’t care about Lay. We don’t need to deal with this.”

I turned to him and smiled softly up at is face and cryptically replied, “Who said we were here for Lay?” And that was true. If all Alex cared for was the Wolf Moon, then we would be fine. Bianca had assured me it would be fine. I could trust her, I told myself. I could definitely trust her. If Alex insisted on taking a sacrifice, I had no opposition to him killing Lay.

That second the door was yanked from its frame with a loud bang. It slammed back into the wall and there standing in place of where it’d once been was Lay who breathed deeper and deeper as an enraged expression etched on his face. Dante took an instinctive step back.

I peered over Lay’s shoulder, unfazed by him when I had my plan. Bianca and Alex were here; I could smell their hunter scent.

“Calm down, brother,” Alex called from inside Dante’s old house that appeared like it’d fallen into disrepair. “I invited them!”

Alex and Bianca pushed on past Lay who let them without a fight. Lay and Dante had identical reactions, their expressions turning sour as Dante looked at me for answers and Lay looked at Alex.

Dante reached out between the moments of confusion and pulled me back by the shoulder into his chest. “What did you do?” he whispered cautiously in my ear. I wanted to turn in his arms and tell him I was sorry that I hadn’t told him what was going to happen, but I couldn’t. That was for later.

A rush of adrenaline hit me as I shrugged Dante off and stepped out of his protection. With a nod at Bianca, I turned to stare directly at Lay who began to piece things together.

“I told you,” Lay seethed in Alex’s direction, “I’m the one who makes the decisions. I don’t recall extending dear Dante an invite.” Ethan appeared from the house like a curious dog at the noise.

Alex shrugged nonchalantly. “Yeah, sorry, slipped my mind.”

“Slipped your mind?” Lay repeated, giving Alex the chance to change his wording. Alex didn’t even flinch. “And you!” Lay shouted as he threw his hand out in accusation at Dante and me, “What the hell are you playing at?”

I observed Lay as he spiralled into his pit of hatred. He’d truly gone mad with his vendetta against Dante. What began as a small spat over Dante not listening to him had escalated into a situation of life or death, and I could only pray that it never came to that… Despite how Bianca predicted the day would end.

Ethan looked poised to talk as he stepped in line with Lay who looked down on him like he were the master and Ethan the pet. “What’s happening?” he asked meekly, his gaze forever avoiding Dante.

Lay tilted his head to the side and let the emotion drip from his face. “That’s what I’d also like to know. It seems only a second ago we were discussing how we’d recapture Austin and kill every Bancroft,” he said, each word like a rock intended to harm Dante.

I didn’t peer back to see Dante’s reaction as I let the words spill out back at Lay. “Funny that,” I replied, “Alex, Bianca, and I were discussing the same about you this morning.” Well, I added in my head, maybe just Bianca and me.

Lay looked suddenly like he was a deer caught in a snare, his head bouncing between Bianca and Alex and then Dante and me. He didn’t know who was going to pounce first, and honestly neither did I. His eyes widened to reveal an innocence I hadn’t known to be there before and then suddenly it was gone. Like a mask sliding down his face, he began to snarl. “You team up with your enemy, Alex? Just wait until I tell the Thorn’s about this,” he growled.

Alex couldn’t have been more at ease. The shorter man leaned back on his heel and appeared to look down on Lay. “I don’t work for the Thorn’s,” he replied, “I work for the hunters.”

“But you’ll be the Thorn’s little bitch when I tell them about this though. You’ll be lucky to not die!” Lay cursed as loudly as he could like a war cry, his body beginning to twitch as if his wolf was itching to escape and claw off all our faces.

Enclosed in the clearing surrounding the small Bancroft house, I could sense a fight before the day was going to end. Just like at Wolf Lake, except this time it’d finish here and only here.

“You treat the Thorn’s like they’re something huge – they’re not. Even if you woke up alive tomorrow to tell them what we’re doing, they won’t do anything. The hunters backed the Thorn’s to separate the Mateo packs and break down the defences. The Bancroft pack has been disintegrated thanks to you and the Dimera pack is significantly reduced in size. We even got to test out some neat biological weapons. They only want Riley, Dante, and Austin dead on a personal vendetta and they know that’s none of my business,” Alex explained casually. “They asked me to finish off Dante for them and use Austin for the Wolf Moon – but I have no obligation.”

Lay scuffed his feet like he was going to charge. “But that’s why they left you in charge,” he accused.

Alex rolled his eyes and let his hand fall to his side towards his belt, holding an assortment of weapons similar to those I know would kill someone of my kind in a split second if used in the right way. “No, Lay, I took charge. The Thorn’s aren’t some god. The other hunters simply want to eradicate werewolves, and they’ll do that in the most strategic way possible. Killing all the Wolves of Mateo first isn’t that strategic approach.” He took a step forward and beckoned Lay closer. “Never confuse your enemy with your ally.”

“Of course killing all the Wolves of Mateo is the most strategic approach! They’re the biggest base for wolves in the US,” Lay screeched as his nails began to elongate and retract, the first of his form to begin transforming. He was resisting, you could see it. It really did show how angry he was if he couldn’t resist the transformation.

Alex shook his head. “Mateo no longer matters!” Alex replied, sure of himself, “what matters now is crushing the loose cannons of the werewolf world and that’s going to take us elsewhere. Whether the Thorn’s want to return and finish what I refused is up to them.”

Dante behind me approached my turned figure and laid a hand on my shoulder. His touch made me aware of his cold hands, the turning weather than had begun to spit the first sign of rain all autumn. “So what now?” Dante asked, reminding me that he was as clueless as Lay. He didn’t hear what Bianca and Alex had suggested, he didn’t know that Alex had agreed to let us live because we weren’t his problem.

Dante must have been terrified, terrified we’d all be killed for the Wolf Moon Alex was set on completing.

Bianca spoke up this time, smiling softly at Dante – someone she’d met so little but had such a strong negative opinion of. She smiled though. “Now we complete the Wolf Moon,” she sang.

Everyone stood still, holding their ground as silence fell over us like a blanket being dropped over air, floating down like a veil over peace. I knew Dante wondered if that meant we were both going to die, despite no longer being werewolves.

“It really is an honour for any hunter to complete a wolf moon. You can imagine that with a Wolf Moon happening only for a decade every 510 years, it’s a small club to join,” Alex let us know, a scary expression falling over his face.

“So who is it, Alex, who’s going to be your sacrifice?” Lay asked with a warning in his voice, as if he thought he could kill Alex and Bianca and then Dante and I if that sacrifice so happened to be him. I didn’t fancy his chances.

Alex reached down to his belt and unclipped a little latch. His guard appeared to be down entirely, open to attack if Lay chose to pounce. It was probably Alex’s lack of concern that unnerved Lay the most. “Remember what I said about loose cannons?” Alex questioned as he clamped in his hand a small dagger from the assortment on his belt and twirled it between his fingers. “Well, you’d be the first.”

And that was that, I thought, as I watched Lay look down at the bed he’d made, contemplating if he really did have to lie in it and give in. Put up his hands and say he was sorry and pray he’d live. But this was Lay, Lay so far had never gave up, never went only half in. I knew if he were going to die, he’d make sure he went out with a hell of a fight fuelled by the insane inside him.

He roared like he were a soldier charging into battle but stood entirely stationary, his left leg propelled forward, his muscles tensed and firm. Tufts of fur were sprouting from under his clothes and his bones were morphing and rippling like a wild sea under his flesh. “I’ll kill you all!” Lay screamed.

Bianca didn’t looked fazed. She unclipped a blade from Alex’s belt without looking and gently touched the tip with her finger. “You can try, dog,” she muttered before all chaos broke loose.

 

 

 

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