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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3. Chapter 3

“You’re a madman, Bancroft,” I sighed as I sank lower into my seat and took deep breaths to make the car sickness pass.

Dante took his eyes off the road and gave me one of those mischievous looks. “They’re crawling on the road - I had to overtake somehow!” he defended, “Besides, since when have you called me Bancroft, Kerr?” he replied with a teasing tone.

I probably would have hit him if he weren’t driving, and decided I’d instead hit him twice as hard next time. “Shut up,” I grumbled.

Dante and I had been on the road for no more than two hours and we were already leaving Wyoming. I hadn’t left the state before in my entire existence – can’t say my family ever felt the need – but I was nervous I supposed because I wasn’t crossing oceans but it was still a border.

“There it is, the welcome sign. Bye, bye Wyoming,” Dante muttered as he sped up down the road and tooted his horn as we passed the sign.

I shielded my eyes from the sun and pulled down the visor. “Hello, Colorado.”

“That’s the spirit!” Dante cheered and patted me on the shoulder with some amount of humour in his voice. “Cheer up, babe, look – there’s a service station ahead. We can get out for a breather there. Our first step in Colorado, think of that!” Of course, Dante wasn’t even a fraction genuine with how he was trying to cheer me up. I’m sure he found it hilarious how I was reacting to the situation.

“Call me babe one more time, and I swear to god, Dante-,”

Dante suddenly swerved into the service station and came to a sudden halt. I gave him my best death stare which was met with a smile as we both got out the car on jelly legs and numb toes. Dante came to my side and held me up by the shoulders. “Steady there,” he said. “Tell you what, let’s go get something to eat.” But I wasn’t hungry nor in any mood for any form of banter. I wanted to get into Colorado and get out again with Austin in tow. In the space of mere hours if I could help it.

Dante made sure the dusty truck was locked – not that it was in any state that anyone would want to steal it – and we made our way past the petrol pumps and into larger buildings behind it. “Right, we have KFC, some café, or we can get ourselves some sandwiches from the petrol station. Take your pick.”

The building was large and featured a central square with benches and tables atop a granite-look-alike flooring, directly above was a sunroof with hanging baskets of flowers that I could only imagine required a gymnast to water. All around in a hexagonal form were many stores and eateries. It wasn’t how pretty the interior looked, however, that caught my eye – it was the people. Maybe it were a paranoia that had set in through the past many months but in a way… I could sense their connection to a world much like our own, and, judging by the select stares, they could feel it too.

“Dante?” I asked, scanning around and purposely avoiding the eyes of those who chose to stare at us. They were werewolves like us, and it felt odd. Being stuck in a small town our whole lives had made it even weirder to be faced with an outsider or, as I should say, us as the outsiders.

Dante nodded silently and pulled us along. “Petrol station sandwiches it is,” he muttered.

I lagged behind, almost feeling like Dante was walking for me. “They’re wolves, aren’t they?” cutting out there ‘were’ on ‘werewolves’ to avoid any nosy humans overhearing a word they shouldn’t.

“Well, there’s no defining who’s a human and who’s a werewolf by looks alone. Sure, scent would give it all away but it’s not like I could walk up to each of them and ask to let me have a good sniff. It was a mix of all sorts in there,” Dante replied, as we exited the building and went around the smaller attached building that was used as a petrol station to pay for your petrol and pick up some snacks for the road. “Besides, because of the damn hunters my sense of smell is all over the place right now. I’m just being careful.”

Although I knew why I was uncomfortable, I couldn’t understand why Dante was too? I’d have thought he’d lap up the attention like a thirsty dog. Why was he running away with his tail between his legs when back home he was a figure to be feared? “Is there a reason we’re running away? I was sure just a second ago you were craving the greasiest food you could get your hands on,” I asked.

“Mateo is your home, pack life is mine. You’re uncomfortable in unknown areas, I’m uncomfortable around unknown packs and wolves. I’m part of the alpha line, it means I’m a key players when it comes to pack wars.” He gave the building a glance back as we enter through another store front from the outside. A bell chimed overhead. “You never know what other packs might have planned.”

Separating from Dante, I made my way around the small store that consisted of a small centre island displaying food and the three walls adjacent to the till displaying an array of snacks and refrigerators full of soda and chilled foods.

I headed to the wall of candy, whereas Dante headed for the fridge. “Just water?” he asked.

“Just water.”

I picked up a few candy bars and slapped them onto the tiny counter and waited for Dante.

“Boyfriend?” the woman behind the counter asked when I met her eyes.

I nodded. “Yeah,” I said out loud before adding internally, or mate – whatever floats your boat.

Dante turned towards us both and froze and I could just visibly see his nose twitching. I peered round the display on the counter and snuck a look at the woman who served us. Wolf. I could smell it now too. We’d both been recovering well from the hunter poison and I’d begun to grasp small traces of werewolf senses and I suddenly felt stupid for not noticing the woman’s scent sooner. She’d surely noticed mine. Dante stepped forward instead of leaving and put on a brave face, clearly feeling uncomfortable.

“So… Where are you guys from?” the woman, maybe mid-twenties asked. We both knew that was more intended as ‘what pack are you from?’

Dante gave a twitch of a smile and said, “Mateo, just slightly north of the state line.” Answering just as any regular human might.

She nodded along, probably as clueless as everyone else as to where exactly Mateo was. Mateo wasn’t a bustling tourist town, but rather a pit-stop for truckers on long journeys and passing tourists to more desirable destination up-state.

She scanned the last few items, bagged them up, and held her hand out for the cash. “Where are you headed?” translation, ‘what pack do you have business with?’ – by now I gathered werewolves were restrictive on their travel, which obviously meant no one travelled far from their own pack for anything but business unless of course they had no pack – unless they were a rogue wolf and rogues back home weren’t welcome either.

“Dunsmore, about an hour and a bit from here,” Dante replied nonchalantly as if he had nothing to hide, which he didn’t so long as he pretended to be a human tourist on a mission of none other than sunbathing in the somewhat lacking Colorado sun.

She handed him the bag and a small receipt. “Thank you, have a safe trip,” she replied with what I could only describe as a weary smile. “And I hope to see you again on your way back.”

Dante and I share a look as we left quickly.

Translation, ‘I hope you finish up here nicely and go back to where you came from.’

***

“Dante, I told you, a left turn, not a right turn!” I yelled in frustration, snapping down Dante’s throat for taking a wrong turn again.

“I would have taken the right turn if you weren’t so good at distracting me, backseat driver!” he retorted.

You’d never think us two were in any form of relationship, a forever bond that couldn’t be broken filled with passion and love – what mates were supposed to be. No, you’d have thought perhaps siblings, or in some cases, mortal enemies.

Dante was too busy observing the map he’d told me specifically not to read from as it was apparently ‘too distracting’ to have me acting as a live satnav. His foot pushed down on the accelerator causing the car to speed fast enough to tap the slower cars in front. “Dante!” I screamed, my finger pointing out the window.

“I got it, I got it.” Dante slammed on the break and almost collided with a car behind as we came to a sudden slow-down. “Besides, look – we’re nearly there. We just need to follow the sign posts.”

Sure enough, the signpost had noted that Dunsmore was less than 10 kilometres away.

I sighed and let the signposts take over. Dante and I had been fine from Mateo to Cheyenne, but from Cheyenne through the Stateline and into Colorado had been harder, and now in an area we’d both never travelled we were struggling.

“Who’s the pack we’re staying with, and please Dante, tell me they’re expecting us,” I said as I folded the map up and checked the time. Five o’clock in the afternoon.

Dante almost looked offended. “What do you take me for? Of course they’re expecting us. When we were searching for Austin we became acquainted with the pack. The Santoro pack. Alpha’s called Lay, like the chips.”

I almost laughed, but I wasn’t in much of a laughing mood. “What’s their fur colour?”

“Soft brown, almost like a mix between Dimera and Touren, but you know, you’ll see,” Dante said as I had visions of an exotic pack with electric blue tresses. Dante continued in saying “Their alpha Lay Santoro is new to the job. Only been alpha for maybe a few years.”

“On the job longer than you,” I muttered.

Dante frowned. “Yeah, well it wasn’t exactly something I’d expected to happen so quickly. I expected I’d at least get to have a life first before I was handed the job of alpha.”

Dante being the alpha of Bancroft was something that always escaped my mind because he didn’t look nor act like an alpha of anything. He was just… Dante. His father dying also escaped my mind from time to time, but I’m sure it escaped Dante too – it was almost like the aftermath hadn’t settled in yet.

“I’m sorry,” I said, “At least you have Ethan to help out.” I remembered back to the man I’d seen in Dante’s house just this morning. I couldn’t form any opinion on his yet but so far I didn’t think Ethan and I would see eye to eye.

Dante nodded. “I do. I just hope he does an okay job at communicating with the scatted pack members and keeping conflict down.”

The truck rolled into a thinned out forested area down a dirt road and soon the sunlight I’d so desperately tried to shoo away was gone and we were plunged in the cover of overhead trees. “We’re here already?” I asked as Dante succeeded on locating Santoro territory.

“I think so…” Dante pulled out as he crept along the road.

“You hope so.”

Dante stopped the car when the road ended in front of an old brick home, large and multi-story. There in front, as if expecting us, was an entourage of people. Dante smiled in that unsure weary way and for a small moment I reached down and gently touched his hand.

Both of us got out from the car. Dante began to converse almost straight away with a man at the front of the entourage, their hands joined in a tight shake.

Getting out the car myself, I walked around crunching the pine needles under my feet and stood in the shadow of Dante, curious but cautious.

They shook hands and stepped apart. “Is this is your mate, Dante?” the brown haired, tall man with a thin, long face asked. This was probably Lay.

Dante’s arm reached behind and pulled me to his side from his shadow. “Sure is. This is Riley.”

I stared at the ground and scuffed my shoes. “Such a beautiful couple,” an older woman gushed.

“Mom, please,” Lay muttered in her direction.

She waved her hand in dismissal and gave a warm smile.

“This is my family, I’m sure you’ll all get on quite well,” Lay said as I scanned the few people around him. Lay himself, the woman who was his mother, and some who looked like siblings and some children who I didn’t know of their relations to the alpha family. It was a large family. Their house seemed like a perfect fit. “I’ll be sure to introduce you all when we’re a bit more comfortable, but for now I think it best if we all go inside.”

***

The inside of the home didn’t match the inside. I stepped through and noticed modern taste of simplicity. The walls outside might have been brick – bare and untouched –but the walls inside were a blinding ivory with what was quite literally a glass etched door leading from the living room into the kitchen.

Sitting on their equally modern couch, I relaxed into it and felt like I was drifting asleep – although that’s what a 3 to 4 hour journey would do to you. I’d taken my shoes off at the door and now my sock covered feet delved into their white sheep skin rug under a metal and glass coffee table.

“What would you all like to drink?” The mother asked as she skidded through the doorway and entered the living room. “We have orange juice, coffee, tea, you name it.” The woman seemed more than hospitable, but I didn’t want to take advantage of that.

Everyone called off their requests, and Dante personally said he’d take a glass of water. I said I was fine, and really wasn’t all that thirsty, which was quite true. Dante gave me a disapproving look from the corner of his eye.

Everyone settled and soon Lay came back and settled beside his family opposite us. “I’m guessing you’re all prepared for a rough few weeks trying to find your friend, so we’ll all stay out of your way once we pass on all we know but I sincerely hope you keep out of our way too, if it doesn’t involve you.” Lay pointedly gave us a serious look, only to be met by a quick slap from his mother to which he responded with a playful dead eye. “Other than that, we welcome you sincerely,” he finally added.

Dante smiled warmly and said, “Thank you, if you ever need anything at any time and my pack is of any use feel free to come calling.”

Lay nodded before he turned to look at me. “I’m the alpha, Riley, in case Dante didn’t already tell you. This is the Santoro pack,” he said, rolling a glass around in his hand.

The woman beside him opened her mouth to speak too. “I’m his mother, alpha female while he rushes to find his own mate, but for the mean time I’m just as important as him, honey, so if you ever need to talk,” the older woman, Lay’s mother, said as she gave a reassuring smile on her wrinkled, kind face.

Another younger, more lighter looking girl who sported beach blonde wavy hair and sports gear said, “I’m his younger sister, Jade.”

Two girls in the far corner sat close together – together they looked so different but at the same time I knew they were siblings. They had tanned skin that contrasted the brightness of the living room and watched the situation carefully as if they were worried. They were the only two who didn’t introduce themselves. I wondered briefly before we moved on from introductions, who they both were.

As the formalities fell away, everyone broke off into personal conversations, but I was left more alone and I was enjoying the mental peace. “Here, Riley – you’re looking pale,” Dante whispered close to my ear as he held the glass of water to my lips. Gladly taking a few sips, he grinned at my response and pulled the empty glass from my face. “I think I’ll need a refill.”

 “Let’s be hoping you and your mate will be as in love as them two of them,” the mother sighed airily to her son Lay, mopping up the scene with her ever loving eyes. Hearing the words on someone else’s mouth made me blush. We looked like we were in love, I thought. We were, weren’t we? Despite all that had happened, we could overcome and forgive.

I looked at Dante with a small smile and he gave one back. Just to add to the show, he leaned in and planted a kiss directly on my lips.

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