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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23. Chapter 23

The thought of Lay’s pack filtered through my mind, the fact that Lay had backup should he need it and we didn’t know if they were still back home or if they’d followed Lay here. I didn’t have time to ponder.

Alex was quick, but not quick enough to stop Lay straight away. Bianca receded and let Alex play on his own – play as if he were toying with a mouse. He slid from Lay’s path with ease and flicked his wrist ever so slightly sending a smaller blade straight over Lay’s right shoulder moments before he burst into his full wolf form.

Lay whimpered, the knife cutting deeper than he’d anticipated but that didn’t hinder him much. He still looked ready to kill.

His hind legs propelled him into the air and for a moment I became concerned that Alex wouldn’t be able to beat off the three hundred pound beast that was double his size, and that was true, I thought as I watched Alex form a cross with his arms that shielded his face from Lay who snapped dangerously close to his neck.

Bianca took that as her signal. She seemed almost like a different person as she reached towards Alex’s belt and unclipped a particularly special looking blade in one swift motion. She knew what she was doing and that alone was a surprise when you considered before she was a person who rarely knew what classes she had to attend in a day of school.

I could only let myself watch from a distance. Dante because he was too afraid that if he got involved his turn to be next would come sooner rather than later. The look on his face, his lips turned inwards, eyes wide as he danced across the scene… He didn’t think we’d get out of this alive.

“We need to leave,” Dante said just loud enough to be heard over the chaos.

“No,” I replied, shaking my head up at him, “We need to finish this. You know it, I know it.”

Dante looked so done. “We don’t need to finish anything,” he insisted.

I watched Alex, Bianca and Lay fight it out and Bianca and Alex seemed like the perfect pair as they worked effortlessly together as if they’d been practising. Bianca was like a different person, like a hunter.

It all seemed to go so fast but one second Alex was struggling with the Wolf who fought over him and the next Alex had pushed him in Bianca’s direction with such an impossible force. Bianca took that as her signal, swinging her arm back with the blade she’d released before – a blade with a golden handle and encrusted with jewels telling me this was the blade, the one they had to kill an alpha blood with. She brought her arm down over Lay’s back, whose form lay facing Alex as if he were completely unaware of the threat behind him.

I felt the pain myself as I were the one in Lay’s position with the same ceremonial knife plunged from tip to handle between my shoulder blades. I felt everything as I watched Lay’s movement suddenly stop, his four legs beginning to shake as he began to register the pain and supernatural force.

I needed a moment to grasp what was happening. Bianca had stabbed Lay.

I watched as Lay’s wolf collapsed to the ground and the rumbling from his chest began to secede. Blood began to saturate the grass.

Oddly, I thought, this didn’t seem as satisfying as I thought it would be.

Bianca stood over Lay’s unmoving wolf as if she herself couldn’t believe it. She was the one to kill Lay. Alex began to slow clap. Ethan was, concerning, nowhere to be seen.

Lay’s body stopped moving, the blood stopped pouring from the wound. I watched, feeling pain myself, and gaped for a few long moments.

Alex glanced around in search of something and then quietly thought to himself before spitting out a laugh. “I see his other dog has run off,” he said, referring to Ethan, “We’ll have to get him a little later.” He kneeled down in front of the large wolf flat on the ground and reached out to grab the handle of the knife still lodged in Lay’s motionless body. Noise emitted that tempted the gag reflex before he yanked his arm back towards him, knife in hand.

I turned instinctively towards Dante and moved closer to his increasingly welcoming chest and arms. My brain was stunned, I didn’t know what to think or to feel and Dante didn’t quite know why never mind what but smiled down at me nevertheless.

Bianca began to talk, but I wasn’t looking in her direction to read the expression of my once best friend. I could imagine she’d look blank, no smile, and no frown. Blank as she too took in what she just done. “That’s it,” she muttered, and then repeated a little louder, “That’s it. It’s over.”

I smiled sadly off in the direction of the trees rather than Dante’s old house and replied, “Is it really that simple?”

Alex put himself in the conversation at this point and replied coolly, “It will be that simple if you leave and leave now.”

I tossed that around in my head for a few moments as Dante in all his cluelessness added, “You’re letting us leave?”

Bianca muttered something about how bad I was in not telling Dante what was going on and began to elaborate in typical Bianca fashion, speaking easily a mile a minute. “Riley and I have been talking for a while in secret. After all that’s happened and all that’s been done, I realised I couldn’t let Riley die, and so we can’t let you die either.”

“But we’re werewolves-,” Dante tried to say.

“-Yes,” Bianca interrupted, “But as Alex put it so well to Lay, I’ll let him explain.” She glanced over at the man who simply nodded in appreciation and stepped out of Bianca’s shadow and over Lay’s corpse.

He crossed his arms intimidatingly and fiddled for a few seconds with the ceremonial blade on his belt that dripped blood down his trouser leg. “As I explained to Lay, while the main goal is to eradicate werewolves, killing you two isn’t the most efficient way of doing it. Killing you two is the business of Kelly and Hilary Thorn, so if you like your hearts beating I’d get running before they both arrive.”

A question rose on Dante’s lips as he spat out, “But why don’t you kill us now? We’re right here, vulnerable and with no defence. You’d get on the Thorn’s good side and have us out the equation. Two more wolves down.”

Alex laughed like it was no big deal. “Consider this a favour to Bianca. She asked I don’t hurt you, and I don’t care as long as I get the Wolf Moon sacrifice. I’m hoping you’ll fall off the radar and we’ll never have to cross paths again. You’ll live as if I did kill you here, got it?”

I nodded slowly but Dante wasn’t as quick to jump on board. I glanced worriedly at Bianca who passed back a reassuring smile in that Alex really wasn’t a threat, but that was hard to believe when I remembered the way he fought off Lay – a full grown, strong and enraged wolf.

Alex found Bianca with his eyes and looked her down, “And Bianca,” he began to say, “I killed Lay, alright? I stabbed him with the Wolf Blade.”

Bianca nodded like she had no other say in the matter, which was pretty much true. If she had said anything but ok, he could have killed her and then us two to get it his way.

Dante still looked completely bewildered at the situation unfolding in front of him and was struggling to form any words. Instead, I formed them for him and said simply towards both Alex and Bianca, “Thank you.”

I turned my back to the two of them as quickly as I could and signalled in the direction back to the car with my eyes urging Dante to leave. He was glued to the ground, more in confusion and fear than anything else but before I could attempt dragging him away Alex called out again.

“But this doesn’t mean you’re safe,” his deep voice rattled out and fell over us like a plague, sending shivers down my spine, “If I ever see you again you will become just mere werewolves I have to get rid of.”

Bianca whispered inaudible things to Alex in harsh tones, but Alex didn’t seem the type to grant a favour never mind grant multiple. If this weren’t a setup and Alex was really letting us live, I’d never forget it.

“What just happened, Riley?” Dante asked as his truck came into view on the road just off from Dante’s old home.

The dense trees surrounding us and the tight dirt track began to feel like bars on a cage and they were closing in. I couldn’t tell if Alex’s threat was true or if the Thorn’s were really coming to Mateo again but I knew time was limited, very limited. “Never mind what happened, Dante, we’re leaving. We’re leaving Mateo.”

I knew Dante was in no state to drive. For a while he’d been in a state of exhaustion. He was exhausted, mentally and physically exhausted. Dante felt more like a shell of a person as of recent, as if the Dante inside had left a note with basic function instructions and then went on vacation.

Before I had figured out what to do next, I was the one driving us down despite having done it only a handful of times in my life. Soon we were back onto the road into Mateo. Our parents, I thought. We couldn’t leave without them.

Dante muttered the same thought too, saying, “My mom, we need to find my mom.”

He was coming back to reality, I thought, and beginning to panic as everything pieced together. Great. I could barely function for myself never mind the both of us.

“Your mom will be at home with your sister and my parents. We’ll get them all and we’ll leave. We’ll just go, okay?”

He nodded okay, but he didn’t seem very sure of himself as he began to chew his lip in doubt and then muttered something about how I shouldn’t be driving.

We pulled into the drive of my house only a little while later and I hopped from the car as if it were on fire. Dante followed slowly after and trailed behind me as I was already bursting through the front door. “Dante, you need to hurry up,” I urged in frustration as he failed to move faster. “Get over it and get ready, okay?”

He looked up at me from the bottom of the porch steps and stepped up one at a time with zero urgency. “Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked simply, his lips downturned and his eyes only half awake as he blinked slowly.

I could only sigh as I threw my hands down to my side. “The plan was very sudden. If I told you, you would have stopped me. You would have insisted on doing it a different way when there was no other way.”

“You think I would have stopped you?” he repeated back at me as if he wouldn’t have.

“Don’t say you would have let me because that’s not true,” I replied, “You hate Bianca and you wouldn’t trust her, even if I swore on my family’s life she had no bad intentions.”

Dante looked off for a second bit his lip in thought. “Look, I don’t want to argue-.”

“And neither do I. We’re wasting time – Kelly and Hilary Thorn could be on their way here with some hunter back up and they really will kill us. We need to leave here as fast as we can,” I said hoping that would be the end of it. Surely he couldn’t continue arguing now – that was for later.

I turned on my heel and began to walk away so he wouldn’t have time to get a word in. I didn’t care to look back at his face when I heard him mutter in agreeance and call an apology at my back.

Dante stormed behind me on his own mission with his own parents and me with my own. I located my mom in the living room, sitting comfortably on the couch with the TV paused as she listened nosily at Dante and I’s argument.

She turned to face me, her lips forming a small o, ready to question what’d happened. “What were you arguing about, Riley?”

“Where’s dad?” I asked suddenly, ignoring her question.

“Why?” She replied.

I reached out and grabbed the remote and shut off the TV with a push of a button. “We need to leave. Now.”

“Why?” She repeated, sitting stubbornly in her seat.

I realised this would be harder than I initially assumed – my mom had little clue of what actually happened at Wolf Lake and the deal with the hunters. She knew Austin had been hurt, she knew he was missing and that’s why I’d left suddenly with Dante many months ago suddenly out of the blue. She knew Dante’s father had been killed by the hunters and that’s why Dante’s mom seemed to be drifting through life like a stray cat.

“You know all that stuff I couldn’t tell you and all that dangerous stuff that hurt Austin?” I asked her as if she were a child who couldn’t be exposed to the real world. In this case, the wolf world.

“Hunters,” she inputted, knowing what I was getting at.

I nodded reassuringly. “Hunters,” I repeated. “Well, that problem hasn’t passed, and now we need to leave. All of us.”

My mom appeared to consider what I was saying as she twisted away and let her eyebrows furrow as she studied the floor. “For how long?” she asked quietly.

At that point I’d grabbed a tote bag from the door handle and was beginning to fill it with trinkets and other keepsakes I knew my mother couldn’t be without. In the middle of all that noise, I replied, “For a while if not forever?”

She got up and took a single step towards me so she was close enough to wrap her hand around my wrist mid reach. I stopped without struggle and looked up at her. My mom didn’t look like she understood, but she didn’t have to understand when she looked into my eyes and saw something she knew she could help with; my fear. Silently, my mom pulled me into a hug.

“I don’t know about forever but I’ve learned over these past few months to trust you better. Because of that trust, I’ll get our things together and leave. On the short term,” she said quietly into my ear as she held me tighter. “We can decide what to do from there. And help me and your father understand.”

I stepped out of her hug and smiled up at her unsure face – her smile wavering as she tried to figure out what the best thing to do was. “It’s too dangerous for Dante and me to stay, and so it’s too dangerous for our families to stay too. That’s all,” I said in return.

“I know, I know,” she insisted. “I get it. I’ll go get our clothes,” my mom said softly as she reached blindly towards the door and turned to leave. “The stuff you make us do, Riley.” And then she was gone.

The stuff you make us do, I repeated in my head. The stuff I make them do. A wave of guilt rolled over me as I realised all that I have and would make them do. My mom lost my dad, she played host to my mate’s family, and now she was being forced to abandon her home and hometown for what might be the rest of our lives.

I almost felt like I had no right to feel guilty. Guilty meant I felt bad for what I was doing but all through this I didn’t think I’d felt bad much at all, and especially not towards my parents. They were in the background, an afterthought. Not important.

As I piled the tote filled with the most important things dotted around the living room, I let my emotions reach a peak and told myself by the time the bag was full I’d have to shut those emotions away again. Now though, well now I could let it all out. And that felt good. Even if just for a short while.

***

I trudged through the dark forest a few hours later that evening. The darkness was only just beginning to fall, but surrounded by the shapeless firs no light could pass through. It may as well have been the middle of the night.

I wandered the forest trail just off from the side of my house looking for someone to say our goodbyes. Not too far from home to cause any worry but not too close for anyone to interrupt.

I saw her hair before I saw her face – the fiery red caught what little light there was down here and gave away her position. “Bianca!” I called out in case she hadn’t already spotted me.

She appeared before me as she swiped the brush out the way and smiled sadly as if she were in a bad mood.

“Are you ready to leave?” Was the first thing she asked, her eyes wide and innocent like a deer, a contrast to the girl I’d seen earlier.

I nodded back at her as my hand slipped down and took her hand in mine. “We’re all ready. My parents will be coming too, grudgingly.”

She laughed at the comment and replied, “Sounds like Mr. and Mrs. Kerr to me.” Bianca tightened her own grip on my hands and pulled me closer. “I’m glad you’ll be okay. I like to hope we’ll see each other again but I’m not sure it’s safe to tell me where you are. You know, with Alex and everything…”

“How did you even get him to do you the favour? Killing Dante and I… That would have been his golden ticket,” I thought aloud as I puzzled over what his reasons might have been.

Bianca smiled gently, but this time her eyes brightened. “Alex isn’t a total bad guy, you know…” She trailed off as she let her face fall to the ground in smiles.

In a split second I’d slapped her arm and giggled before teasing, “There’s something between you two right?”

She could only try and deny it for a few seconds before she gave up denying it and looked up at me like an innocent puppy. “We both have horrible taste in men,” she muttered.

I shook my head and pulled her back into a tight hug. “What happened to being juniors in high school wondering when we’d get our first kiss or get our first boyfriends? It all sounds so innocent now.”

“And neither of us will be graduating high school,” she said sadly into my shoulder.

I nodded into her body and replied, “There’s always that in the future. Graduating high school is after all a very human thing to do and unfortunately for us our priorities as of recent have been of the supernatural kind.”

Time passed by us quicker without words and before I knew it I noticed it was time for me to leave. Dante would be waiting with our families by my mom and my dad’s vehicles, ready to leave town.

Bianca and I discussed briefly how both of us would be destroying our phones and getting new numbers. From the moment I left Mateo we’d have no way to contact each other and we both agreed that was for the best.

“Be careful none of the hunters detect my scent,” I told her harshly as I took steps away in the direction home.

I watched one stray tear slip from between her eyelids as she replied, “Alex is going to tell the Thorn’s we killed you and Dante. Your scent should have deteriorated around town by the time they arrive but if not we’ll come up with something. That’s why we can’t be in contact and you’ve got to live as good as dead.” She wiped harshly at her face and added, “And you make sure Dante doesn’t smell me too. I know he’ll get mad.”

I couldn’t help but cry too. I began to crumble, my hair sticking to my wet cheek and my eyes becoming red and sore. “Now I think about it,” I cried, “Dante wasn’t able to sense you from all the other times we met. There’s something wrong with him, something wrong with his wolf.” I decided in my head that I’d resign silently into the thought of never being in contact with Bianca again. I’d had enough of that when I realized I’d never see Austin again too, after everything that’d happened…

She smiled reassuringly as tears travelled across her lips. “You need to take care of him, Riley. He needs you just as much as you need him. I honestly didn’t like him at first but I can truly say now that Dante is more than perfect for you. You balance each other out. And he loves you.”

We were too far away to hug again, having to shout across the forest. I feared if I went over to her again I’d never step away. Goodbyes were never nice, no matter who with.

Despite all Bianca had done and everything that’d happened, I knew 100% she was never my enemy, despite some of my thoughts in certain moments that would indicate otherwise.

We waved goodbye soon after and my brain began to throw at me all the things I had wanted to say but knew I’d probably never get to say ever again. So many people, gained and then lost. I had Dante and only Dante and while that should have been enough, was I selfish for wanting more?

No, that wasn’t selfish. I knew of people, normal people, who had everything I’d ever need and yet they still weren’t happy with life. I was asking for something simple, in my opinion. I was asking for my old life with everyone I’d grown up around in a town that was once my world.

No matter how much I hated it at the time, I wanted to live here in Mateo, be with Dante and have dinner with both his parents in the flesh. Visit my family on the holidays and go on vacation with Sabitha, Samira, Megan, and Bianca as if we were all best friends. I wanted to visit the Dimera’s like old family friends and then have a family of my own someday…

I knew I could still do all that, but not with any of those people. Not in this town. Not in this state.

I felt like this was more than a goodbye to Bianca and my family home, but a goodbye to everything I’d ever known. Mateo was my whole world. I was like a human leaving earth for a new life on mars. It was terrifying.

Goodbyes, unfortunately as everyone comes to know, are always a hard time. They never become any easier.

 

 

 

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