C3 The Alpha's Mate that cried Wolf!
Chasing after me, I hear Ryker’s footsteps crunching on the gravel. I run faster but he matches my pace effortlessly. Eventually, when I am out of breath, and my broken ribs cannot take any more, I am left with no choice but to stop and face him.
‘Why are you following me?’ I demand to know.
‘You’re my mate whether we like it or not. I have to follow you. It’s my business to know who did that to your face,’ he says, firmly but calmly.
‘You didn't care about me when you slammed your fist into the wall above my head,’ I yell.
‘Astrid, please, I'm sorry. I never would have done that had I known what you’ve been through. If I knew you were telling the truth about not knowing you’re not human, I would have been more civil.’ He looks at the ground guiltily.
‘You have really lost it now! Not being human? What is that supposed to mean?’
‘How old are you?’ His tone has changed again.
‘I’ll be eighteen in two weeks.’ I try to avoid his eyes.
‘You won't meet your wolf till then. I’ve had mine for four years. I'd like to show you exactly what I mean if you allow me to,’ he says, politely.
My breathing is heavy; I’m trying to stay calm and avoid feeling more upset than I already am.
‘Are you okay?’ He sounds genuinely concerned for my welfare.
‘I don't want a wolf for my birthday and I definitely don’t want to meet your pet wolf, or any wolf!’ I try to walk off but the pain is too great.
‘You’ve met a werewolf before?’ He is surprised.
‘A werewolf? What is wrong with you? There is no such thing as werewolves. I'm talking about wild wolves. When I was little, my mum and I saw a wolf in the woods. Something bad happened and I've been afraid of wolves ever since. I can’t go near pet dogs let alone wolves. If you’ve got a pet wolf, we’re absolutely incompatible.’ I try to walk past him again to no avail.
‘What happened with the wolf?’ He is curious.
‘You're not very good at minding your own business, are you?’ I scold.
‘Not when it involves my mate.’ His reply is quick.
‘You just said I’m a rogue and you wouldn't have a rogue as a mate. So why do you keep referring to me as your mate when you don't even want me?’
Ryker steps closer to me and it’s impossible not to make eye contact with him.
‘You’re so beautiful under all those bruises. All I want to do is lift you up in my arms and carry you home.’ He is heartfelt and genuine. ‘I want you to join my pack. You won't be a rogue anymore. We can be together.’ His tone has dropped an octave again; if I hear any more sincerity from him, I’m going to melt right into this footpath. He slowly reaches his hand out to take mine.
I rescind away from him.
‘No,’ I say.
‘No?’ He is surprised.
‘You’re asking me to be your girlfriend when we only just met. Not only that, you were an absolute jerk to me earlier. You only want to be with me because you feel sorry for me. And you want me to join your cult? Pack? Or whatever you call it. And talk nonsense about werewolves and fairies?’ I yell.
‘That's not what I meant. And I never mentioned fairies. Come back to the diner with me and I’ll explain everything to you. Everything you need to know about us, how it all works and what to expect,’ he tries to persuade me.
‘We’re werewolves?’ I ask him. He stands there and nods.
‘So, you’re telling me, I’m cursed? I’m stuck with you as a mate, and we’re werewolves?’
‘You’re not cursed, Astrid. It's a blessing from the Moon Goddess,’ he explains.
‘You know what? I don't want to hear anymore. I'm tired, I'm sore, and I don't like you,’ I spit; he stiffens at my words. I run as best I can toward the trees hoping to lose him.
‘Wait!’ He yells, giving chase.
I hide behind a tree, trying to catch my breath, and remain as quiet as I can.
‘Astrid. I know you're here. I can smell your scent a mile away,’ he yells.
I dig my fingers into the mud underneath me, and apply it all over my face and clothes. He isn’t far away from me. I can imagine him inhaling the air around himself trying to catch my scent. The darkness I’m sitting in makes it easier to conceal myself.
After covering myself in mud the chase is over; with Ryker scentless and directionless, I know I am safe. I pass the street the diner is in and make my way home. I’m an hour late and I pray Dad is passed out drunk or asleep. I open the front door slowly, and cringe with every creaking noise. No lights are on; hopefully this means he is asleep. I carefully pad upstairs and open my bedroom door; with my light on I see Dad sitting on the end of my bed with a furious look on his face.
‘Dad. I'm sorry. I can explain.’ He stands, grabs me by the hair and throws me to the ground. He pummels kicks into my abdomen and legs continuously.
‘Not only did you come home late, but you’re covered in mud, and you’ve dragged it through my house!’ He screams. I try to shield myself with my arms from the blows to no avail. I cry out in pain with every strike, every kick and every punch. I curl up into a ball until I am finally freed from the onslaught with welcome unconsciousness.
There is not an inch of my body that does not ache; I’ve spent the whole day being as still as I possibly can to let my body rest. By evening, I manage to find enough strength to run a small bath and wash the mud from my skin. Completely covered in bruises, my body is proof of the worst degree of abuse it has ever sustained. I hug my knees and cry for a while over the confrontation with Ryker last night, and the beating I got when I came home. Dad is going to kill me if he finds out about Ryker or about me not having a job. I wash the dishes and make some meals in the kitchen as best I can in my condition. I place them in the fridge; Dad should find them easily enough. Sometimes I think I won’t survive the next beating, but somehow, I always do. I return to my room and fall asleep within minutes.
The next day, I’m still in a lot of pain but have improved a little. I get dressed, brush my long brown hair and apply some makeup to hide the bruising on my face. Dad is expecting me to be at work but I can't go back there; not after what happened the other night. I decide to go into town, a forty-five-minute walk from home, to apply for a new job. Not far from the diner, I notice the black Mercedes behind me. I’m not in the mood for this. I decide to confront the person in the car. I stand there making sure they know I’m waiting for them.
The car stops beside me and a rear window descends. A man of around forty-five with dark hair, and dark eyes, smiles in a kind way I’m not expecting. He has a weird scar near his ear; half his ear is missing. I can't see the driver but the two guys in the back look to be around twenty.
‘Why are you following me?’ I ask.
‘Pardon my rudeness, young lady. My name is Zenith. I go to work this way every day and I always see you walking along this road alone. I'm just concerned someone might take advantage of you. I want to keep an eye out for you and make sure you’re safe,’ he explains.
‘Right. Well, the only thing that worries me out here is this car with you creepy people in it,’ I say.
‘You’re an unappreciative one, now, aren't you?’ He says sternly.
‘Look, Zenith, if you don't mind. I've had a really bad week. I need to get into town, so I'd appreciate it if you would stop following me and just let me be.’
‘What happened to your job at the diner?’ Zenith asks.
‘How do you know I worked there?’
‘I've seen you in there when I drive past on my way to work.’
‘Right.’ I turn to walk away.
‘Wait, take this.’ He hands me his business card.
I take it reading it, Zenith Creations CEO, accompanied with a contact number. I look at Zenith confused.
‘If you need a job, give me a call,’ he says.
‘Thanks, but I'm sure I'll be fine,’ I say, handing the card back.
‘No, keep it. Just in case. I'll see you around, Astrid.’ He gives me a wink before his window ascends, shielding him from view.
‘Hey!’ I yell as he drives off. ‘How did you know my name?’
I stand there watching the car drive further and further away. The diner is up ahead; I don't want to walk past it, but there is no other road to take; the woods are the only other thing around. There are more cars at the diner than there usually would be.