“Look, kid, are you planning on ordering anything today or are you just gonna stand there staring at my daughter like she’s a five-star banquet?” Jerry, the owner of Stonevale’s diner glowered down at me as he continued to polish the sundae dish over and over again until it sparkled like a crystal goblet. Until a few seconds ago, he was happily humming along to the lyrics of Elvis’s ‘Hound Dog’ that someone had chosen on the jukebox. The blue faux leather seating, white countertops, pink walls, and black and white tiled floor complimented the style of the theme. It was where everyone chose to meet up on a Saturday, but it was more than the pecan pie special that had me coming to eat in here day after day.
From where I was sitting on one of the padded stools along the front of the counter, Jerry glowered at me with a sense of fierce disapproval. I could tell by the disdainful look on his face that he thought I was nothing but trouble. Maybe it was my faded blue jeans that were ripped at the knees and fraying along the hem-lines, or the hand me down leather jacket that was two sizes too big. But despite how I looked, I was the polar opposite to my older brother Charlie, I was a good kid underneath all the hair gel and engine grease. He was the one who had earned himself a bad reputation amongst the pack, not me. Although, shit tends to stick, doesn’t it?
Jerry couldn’t blame me for appreciating a masterpiece like Sandra. You don’t go to an art gallery and not admire any of the beautiful paintings. And she always was a vision of perfection, even underneath the unflattering uniform he makes her wear for work. I could only imagine what her sculptured body would look like underneath all the white polyester and powder blue cotton that covered her curves.
“Uh, yeah, just a second,” I answered, buying myself another few seconds of thinking time. One because my brain was on a temporary reboot after imagining her body and two because I was struggling to throw together a coherent sentence that made any sense. I could be forgiven for my lapse in social etiquette because all the blood had rushed from my top brain to the one located between my legs.
“I’ll give you two minutes to decide,” Jerry warned, giving me a look that suggested I better hurry.
She flounced past me for the umpteenth time in the twenty minutes that I had been sitting here, carrying a tray of grilled burgers that smelled as divine as they looked. The thought occurred to me that perhaps her daddy had insisted she wears her blue and white striped dress two sizes too big, so that horny teenagers like me knew to keep their eyes to themselves.
All the other waitresses dressed the same but their uniform clung to their bodies like they had been stitched into it. Sandra was a natural beauty. She didn’t need to enhance the redness of her full lips with lashings of lip gloss or backcomb her luscious brown hair to make it stay in a bouffant. Her cute ponytail and flushed face were working wonders for me.
She bustled around her daddy’s diner taking customer orders, walking back and forth across the black and white tiled floor in comfortable flats. Her eyes flashed to mine as she dragged the pen from her hair and whipped out the order pad from her top right-hand pocket. A small smirk played across her lips as if she knew exactly what I was thinking and was silently teasing me for having such filthy, impure thoughts. At sixteen, I had never so much as ever kissed a girl before. Not if you could count pecking my mom on the cheek before going to bed each night.
Jerry huffed as he watched my eyes following his daughter when I should’ve been studying the menu. I hit the jackpot as she bent down to pick up a fork, right in my line of sight. Maybe she dropped it on purpose just for my benefit, who knows? I was grateful for the view, regardless.
“That’s not on the menu, son,” Jerry growled, “so either choose something that is or leave.”
I snapped my attention back to the piece of paper in my hand. The words seemed to dance across the white background the longer I sat there staring at them. Jerry already thought that I was trash without adding the fact that I was illiterate into the mix. I could write my name and address but that was about it. I wasn’t about to let him see that I was struggling to read the fancy print on this week’s menu. Dyslexia was unheard of amongst our community. Each night before my parents died, my papa would sit and read with me for an hour before bed. He and mom would leave me messages on the fridge that were spelled out in alphabetic magnets. I would study the words then arrange the letters to spell out my reply.
They were both killed in a rogue attack whilst coming home from a vacation in Hawcroft, last summer. Charlie and I were staying with our grandmother when it happened, or else we would have met the same untimely fate. I knew that I wasn’t likely to win any prizes for being the worlds smartest wolf. Lucky for me, I was more practical than academic. My future was already mapped out in front of me, courtesy of our family’s auto repair shop. I sure as hell didn’t need a degree in literacy to fix cars. But maybe someday I would need to prove something to old Jerry here that I was good enough to take out his daughter. Even if she was ten years my senior.
“Hey there, Garrett,” she acknowledged me at long last. “Steak and eggs, right?” She winked, pulling me out of my predicament.
The simple gesture caused my heart to detonate inside my chest. I was in love with her, I knew I was. The docile smile on my face played out as I stared back at her completely fucking mesmerized like the dumb fuck I was. My adolescent dick shot forth in my boxer briefs, standing to attention like a rookie soldier who’d just been yelled at by his superior.
Sandra must have sensed the effect she was having on me, twirling her finger around her long brown hair as if she was feigning her innocence. At twenty-six years of age, she could teach me a thing or two. Maybe at eighteen, when I find out who my mate is, that it’s her scent that calls to me upon the stroke of midnight. Every fiber of my soul was counting on it. The not so subtle eye fuckery that she dished out to me each time I showed up in here was telling me that I meant something more to her than my custom. It wasn’t her pity for me being orphaned. I knew that by the way her eyes glanced south at the tent in my jeans and how she bit her bottom lip as if she wanted to sample the goods.
My inner voice was screaming ‘Yes, ma’am!’ But the way her dad ruled her with an iron fist told me that hell would have to freeze over first before he’d ever let that happen. He had high expectations for his daughter and who could blame him? Landing a girl like Sandra Donahue was like all your lottery numbers rolling in one by one.
Jerry shot her a stern look and slung the red checkered dish towel over his shoulder.
“The salt shakers need filling,” he told her, wiping the smile from her face.
“Yes, daddy,” she replied, casting her blue eyes down to the ground.
I felt the pull on my heart as she hurried away from me and disappeared through the kitchen door. My parents were never strict with Charlie and me, but they managed to keep my rebel older brother on the straight and narrow. Our grandmother was old and well past her prime. She chose to move into one of the newly developed apartments here in town. One that was built for senior citizens to live independently but still able to remain under the care of the community. She loved it there, so who were we to force her to live with us? Two scruffy males who sniffed their laundry to see if they could get another wear out of them.
It was another waitress who brought me my order. She wasn’t as attentive as Sandra. She let my plate drop onto the counter with an unceremonious thump. I raised my brows as I inhaled, not even muttering so much as a ‘thank you’. My attitude was ‘you treat people with the same level of respect that they show to you’. In my case, I ought to relocate someplace else. We, Hawkins boys, were about as respected as a dose of dog shit served up on a hot summer’s day.
I snatched up my steak knife and fork and began to dig into the thick, juicy sirloin, two fried eggs that were sunny side up and a side order of paprika fries. If this was my last meal on earth, I would have died a happy wolf. I hoped that my woman poured her heart and soul into preparing this in the kitchen, even though she was in no way mine to lay claim on.
Jerry eyed me like a hawk as I ate, paid then left. I was sure that I heard him breathe a huge sigh of relief on my way out. I let the door close over with a rattle then made my way back across to my family home—auto repair shop—that was situated on the main route through town.
I half expected Charlie to rip me a new one for coming back late from my lunch break, but when I arrived at an empty workshop, that’s when I could feel that something was wrong. All of Dad’s tools were put away neatly and locked up in the red metal cabinets that lined the back walls. There were no cars waiting to be serviced up on the ramps. The company tow truck was parked up on the front forecourt next to Dad’s old Harley Davidson, so I knew he hadn’t gone far. Charlie was a lazy ass who refused to walk anywhere. As I wandered into the workshop I could see that the new parts that were delivered earlier in the week were still left in the boxes. Charlie was supposed to have organized them onto the shelving and checked each one off the list. Dad was a stickler for order. He would be turning in his grave if he could see how disorderly the place had been left.
“Jesus, Charlie!” I groaned. “You said you were going to put everything away! I can’t be expected to do everything by myself. I have homework that’s due in on Monday.”
I listened for a response but it never came.
“Charlie!” I called out, then paused to give him the chance to reply.
The classic rock song that was playing on Dad’s old stereo in the office filtered out through the open space and drowned out the silence.
It wasn’t like Charlie to leave the place unlocked and unsupervised.
Our house was attached to the side of the auto shop and was accessible from its own front and back door as well as through the adjoining door through the office. I wasted no time at all, thundering my way past the disorganized desk and bursting my way through to the door that led straight into our kitchen.
Charlie was standing at the sink when I emerged, gazing out through the window and onto the back yard.
“I can’t stay here, Garrett,” he muttered distantly.
His words left me momentarily stunned for a second, not able to process what the hell he just said.
“What?” I scrunched my face in confusion. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Charlie let out a heavy sigh, his hands gripping the edge of the sink tighter as he leaned all of his weight onto his arms.
“This was all theirs,” he muttered sadly, “this was Dad’s dream, not mine.”
I swallowed hard as he continued. The familiarity of our childhood home was all that I had ever known. Mom chose the herb themed tiles in the kitchen. Dad installed the walnut units himself. He was no joiner but the matching countertops ran flush as you brushed your fingertips against the surface. He was mighty proud of that. Even as I stood in the doorway leaning my palm against the wooden frame, I could still make out the faded pencil lines where they kept a height record of me and my brother as we grew a little taller each year. They stopped doing that when I was around eight or nine after we told them that it was a little lame. Now as I stood there with my heart pounding against the inside of my chest, I could only appreciate just how proud of us they were. I missed them. I knew Charlie did too or else he wouldn’t be talking about taking off from here.
“And where will you go?” I asked, being realistic.
Charlie turned to me, cocking an eyebrow as if surprised by my sharp tone. Even though I was younger and arguably not as bright in the academic department, I had more common sense than some gave me credit for.
“I’ve joined a group of boys down in Hawcroft. They’re called the Shadow Wolves,” he revealed, much to my horror. “They’re just a bunch of guys who disagree with the way things are run around here,” he continued to explain as if justifying his actions. “The alpha is dangerous, everybody knows it. It’s not going to be long before there’s an uprising and I don’t want to wait around here for it to happen.”
“Cut the crap, Charlie!” I hissed, keeping my voice to a low growl in case someone strolled into the workshop and overheard us.
The last thing we needed was to be held on the count of treason.
I raised my finger and jabbed it his way, “You just don’t want to shoulder the responsibility of running a business and taking care of me and our house, don’t go running your mouth about the alpha being batshit crazy because you know what’ll happen,” I warned, scared of the truth.
Charlie gave an exasperated huff and dragged his fingers through his tousled brown hair. “Oh and don’t we know it?” He answered with sarcasm. “The guy is a nut job who hacks up pack members for sport.”
His words rolled around in my gut like I’d swallowed a mouthful of sour milk.
“Don’t say that, Charlie, you don’t know that for sure,” I reasoned, even though Momma always used to say that there wasn’t any smoke without fire.
Something that seemed like doubt flashed in his eyes but then it was replaced by a stubborn scowl. “The leader of the Shadow Wolves, Ice, told me. He said the alpha carved up his brother just for going against one of his orders and he excused it all in the name of medical science.”
My thoughts were conflicted. I heard my parents mentioning similar things once or twice. Nobody knew for sure but we knew one thing: once you were taken to the island fortress, you were never to be seen again. Even Dad said there had to be some truth in the rumors for those rumors to last through the ages. Our alpha was a five-hundred-year-old lycan. Maybe his methods were a little unorthodox. Maybe Charlie was right. But if he leaves the pack without being granted permission, then that would make him a traitor and a rogue. People already thought badly of me. How would they be if I had a rogue for a brother?
"Stay here or leave with me. No one's forcing you," Charlie hit me with an ultimatum, giving an indifferent shrug.
It was moments like these when I couldn’t tell whether or not he cared about me at all. But the fact that he was giving me a choice had to count for something.
He reached to where he had hung his leather jacket over the back of one of the kitchen chairs and pulled it free. He then swung it over his broad muscular shoulders and stuffed his arms inside the sleeves. The white tee he was wearing pulled taut over his ripped abs and clung to his body as if it were a second skin. He got those without even lifting a set of weights. In the run-up to my eighteenth birthday, apparently, I’ll undergo the same physical transformation. Like a right of passage. Maybe then I could be the type of guy that could win over a stunning woman like Sandra.
My mind flashed to the image of her, wondering whether she would miss me if I were to go. Never mind losing the house that I grew up in, or the business that Dad had built from the ground up. I would also be leaving behind any chance that I was ever likely to have with Sandra, leaving the door wide open for some other guy to swoop in and claim her all for his own. But Charlie was my brother—my family. How could I let him leave and risk never seeing him again? Who would stop him from all his reckless shit if I were to stay here and struggle to balance the business and school all on my own?
Why hadn’t I noticed that he was so unhappy? Even though we were still mourning the loss of our parents, I thought that we had been coping as well as could be expected. I guess that I was wrong.
“Yeah, maybe you're right, but the Shadow Wolves?” I cast some mockery on their name. “That’s the dumbest name I've ever heard.”
Charlie released a breathy chuckle that suggested he couldn’t disagree with that comment.
"What about Grandma?" I flung the question at him. "We can't just leave her in the rest home?" I argued.
I knew it was an independent living arrangement but it still felt as if we were abandoning her there.
Charlie scrubbed a hand over his three-day-old stubble. "Well, go keep her company then. You always were a lap dog, Garrett," he teased, knowing how he could rub me up the wrong way.
"Fuck you," I hissed, wishing I could land a sly punch to his jaw as a parting gift and send him on his merry way.
But Charlie knew I'd go insane, stuck here all on my lonesome. Too many memories were all wrapped up in this big house. Especially for a sixteen-year-old kid like me.
"Language, Princess, or I'll have to teach you some manners," he growled, rising above me in his intimidating frame. He was taller than me by a hands height and broader too. I shrank away, expecting him to beat on me but he didn't. Instead, he made his way through the adjoining door and back through the workshop.
I chased after him, following him as he stalked over to the bike that was parked out front.
"Charlie, wait!" I called out, panicked.
I knew that he meant what he said and that he was going for real. He glanced over his shoulder and smirked. I swallowed thickly. This was it. It was now or never. Stay here alone, or go with him and at least have a brother. It took a whopping five whole seconds to come to a decision that would impact the rest of my life. One I'm not exactly proud of admitting to, but I'm gonna tell you about it just the same.
“Pack a bag, we leave in half an hour,” Charlie advised.
I responded with a hastened nod, too emotional to produce speech.
That day, I locked up my father's garage for good. I closed the door of my childhood home one last time and kissed goodbye to any chance of a life with the girl of my dreams. I took my last look at the town that I called home during the past sixteen years as I clutched the seat of my father’s bike behind Charlie. There was no place in this picture-perfect town for a remedial wolf like me. The best thing that I could do was to haul my ass out of here and forget about the life I thought I wanted. I didn’t stand a chance of a white picket fence life with Sandra. I knew it and everyone else did too. I wanted to put all the hurt and heartbreak behind me. That was the plan anyway. That's what I kept on telling myself.
Nobody told me just how painful it was to break away from pack bonds. That night, after the humiliating initiation ritual that we were forced to participate in, it took four big guys from the gang to hold me down while I cried like a bitch. I thrashed around on the clubhouse floor as if my insides were being ripped out through my ass. It was probably less painful than if alpha Alec crossed paths with me. I very much doubted that he would show me a single ounce of mercy.
Charlie drowned himself in liquor and drugs like he usually did to numb the pain that he was feeling. He crouched down beside me and pressed his palm against my sweaty brow.
"It'll be all over soon," he told me, his features twisting with guilt.
Rough hands gripped my jaw, forcing the bottle into my mouth. The amber liquid they fed me was of room temperature but it burned my throat like a motherfucker, licking a firey trail down my esophagus. The more I drank, the less I felt. Until I woke up the following day, face down on the floor in a pool of my own piss and vomit.
Have you ever woken up after being blind drunk and forgot who or where the fuck you were for a minute? Those few blissful seconds when you can't remember shit. Those were the best. Then realization comes flooding back to get you. Kicking you right in the balls, forcing you to remember everything. Every painstaking detail, leaving you with nothing but a blinding headache and a shit-ton of regrets.
It took a moment or two longer to sink into that hazy, hungover, thick skull of mine, but when it did, the bitter truth left its lasting scar straight across my moral compass.
I was a traitor to my pack. A rogue wolf. That was the choice I made through acting out of love and I had no one else to blame but me.
Did you enjoy my ongoing story so far? Please let me know what you think by leaving a review! Thanks, K. L. LordWrite a Review