Chapter Five


This happened a lot to Layn. He was a lightning fast changer and often woke up as a wolf without feeling any pain. That was not to say he didn’t feel pain when he changed normally. All the pain was just compressed into a moment of unbelievable agony for him, or a few moments anyway.

Layn awoke and yawned feeling his snout dig into the blankets around him. He was furnace hot and struggled out the blankets hitting the wolf beside him. Flipping over and finally struggling up Layn saw the man open his eyes and swear. Layn growled as the man, by the smell and look Antonio, jumped up and almost tripped as he backed up over something on the floor.

Layn whined as the man crouched down to wake up Noah, Layn assumed, but his attention was pulled from this as a noise on the other side of the room made him growl. Reese, he thought anyway, his vision was a bit odd in this form with not as much light. Reese froze in the doorway and swore, again Layn thought, but he spoke to fast to catch the word.

Layn opened his mouth to yawn then and pawed a bit at the blankets. He saw the woods through the window and whined wanting to be out there but not how to get from point A to point B right then. He turned to the door then forcing his human brain to be in charge and think about the situation. After a few minutes of this and before he could formulate a plan a noise started him and he looked towards the door to see another wolf and a more dominate wolf he could tell.

Instantly all he could think about was protecting Noah. Even as a wolf this was forefront in his mind. Instinct took over and he jumped from the bed and landed in front of Noah turning towards the door. He saw Antonio cover Noah and swear, again he thought so anyway, but he turned away from them to growl at the oncoming wolf then.

Behind him he heard noise and something bang, he thought, as the black wolf came into the room and dipped his head growling. Layn growled back and bared his teeth. Behind the black wolf a blonde wolf came in and growled as well. Layn whined and backed up then knowing two against one wasn’t lending him any advantages at all. He continued to growl as the two bigger wolves backed him into a corner. Only when he felt threatened and was trapped did he launch himself at the smaller of the two wolves, the blonde one. Immediately the blonde wolf leapt and met Layn in the air tackling him to the ground. The black wolf launched himself at Layn as well and they met in the air but the black wolves’ weight pinned Layn to the floor as the blonde wolf landed and tried to grab Layn’s neck to bite him lightly for submission.

Layn pulled back and she missed as he snapped at her nose but then he let out a painful yip as the black wolf bit his side distracting him. The blonde wolf quickly took Layn’s neck in her mouth pinning him and biting down to force his obedience. Layn yipped in pain again and held still whining and breathing hard. None of the wolves moved for a moment as Layn tried not to struggle. As he was pinned there he sniffed in and realized that he was screwed. This was Jeremy and Elena and he was fighting against them. His human brain told him he may be dead by tomorrow for this one. He had already freaked out earlier and screwed himself over and now he was again. Now he forced his human mind to take over and stayed completely still.

Elena finally let him go and looked around as if forming a plan. Jeremy let go of Layn as well and looked over at her. Layn watched them as Elena walked to the bathroom door and scratched on it with a whine and then stepped back. After a moment the door opened slightly and Tonio stepped out looking at them now as Elena turned and trotted to the window jumping up to put her paws on the window seat and looking back at him. Tonio chuckled as he stepped around Layn and Jeremy and went to the window to open it.

“Want me to throw him out the window?” Antonio asked Elena who looked at Layn and then jerked her head in as close as a nod as she could. Layn watched as Tonio turned and walked to him crouching down. Slowly he set a hand in Layn’s fur and petted him letting the wolf get used to his scent. Layn’s growl turned to a whine as he reached over and licked the man’s hand. “Easy,” he said slowly and reached under him to pick him up. Layn squirmed but the man easily held him and took him to the window. “Land on your feet, kiddo,” he said and crouched on the window seat. Suddenly Layn was falling and he yipped as he slammed into the ground not being coordinated enough to land on his feet yet.

He’d be bruised and battered when he turned back but nothing seemed to be broken. Layn slowly stood then shaking himself off and sniffed testing his senses now and picking up owl, plants and rabbit. Behind him he heard two similar thumps and turned to see the other bigger wolves. Layn backed up and chuffed lying down and putting his head on his paws eyeing them. They had already established that they were dominant and he was trying hard to remember this would all come back to bite him in the ass when he was human again so he needed to obey now.

Jeremy huffed and looked at Elena who growled at Layn and then took off towards the woods. Layn immediately got up and followed lopping off knowing the growl was an order to follow and obey. Layn noticed that Jeremy didn’t go until he followed and he heard the other wolves’ paws behind him.

Layn stopped once he was inside and sniffed picking up the scent trail. He felt Jeremy nip his behind and he turned and snapped at the other wolf playfully. Jeremy snorted and swiped at him now jumping back. Both wolves stopped when they heard a howl in the woods and snapped their heads up immediately racing towards the Alpha’s call.

Layn felt his paws hit the ground and the wind whip through his fur. This was the best feeling in the world. Layn jumped over a log and landed on the other side of a large clearing but slipped in the mud he didn’t see and yipped as he fell on his ass in front of the Alpha. Behind him Jeremy landed gracefully and chuffed. Layn looked up with his head cocked and a growl now. Elena cocked her head and watched the smaller wolf before leaping at him and tackling him to the ground. Layn growled as she bounced away and then stopped a few feet in front of him with her paws on the ground and her butt in the air inviting him to play.

Behind him Jeremy leapt over Layn’s back and tackled Elena now. Layn was confused as this but watched as Jeremy tackled her and they both growled at one another biting and yipping. Layn soon jumped into the action trying to bite at Elena’s ear and Jeremy’s flank. He’d never played with other wolves before having always changed alone.

He nipped, yipped and leapt around until Elena pushed him away with a growl and sniffed catching the smell of food. Layn jumped up and sniffed as well cocking his head to the side and listening for any noise in the woods. As only a quarter of the pack was present going after something big was not an option but smaller animals were perfect. Layn put his noise to the ground now and walked around sniffing and trying to pick up a trail but Elena’s howl pulled his head back up. Again, she took off and Jeremy looked over at him and chuffed. Layn understood and he took off after her like before.

Elena was waiting for them at the edge of a smaller semi cleared area where some rabbits were frolicking, a rather large one and some smaller ones. Layn quieted and waited smelling and hearing Jeremy come up beside him. None of them moved until Elena jumped from the clearing and tackling the bigger rabbit. Immediately Jeremy and Layn leapt from their hiding places and started chasing the others.

After he had had his full Layn lay down where he was and started licking his paws. Beside he heard a whine and looked up in time to see a giant tongue licking his face. Layn growled and tried to back up, not used to this kind of attention, but Elena pawed his head and then pinned him down with her weight so she could do as she pleased. Layn wasn’t sure how long this went on because his yawn betrayed the fact that he was wiped out and in a matter of seconds, unlike when he tried to sleep as a human, he was asleep.

Layn was cold in his dreams, so cold he awoke with a violent shiver only to realize he was colder in real life. He opened his eyes to see grass sprinkled with dew droplets and above him a cold sky. His teeth were chattering and he had to force them to stop as he sat up fully human now and looked around. Water droplet slide from his skin and hit the ground making a distinct plinking sound. Had he changed and come out here alone? Layn wondered and got up looking around and crossing his arms over his chest for warmth. Which way was the house? Layn asked himself and turned in a circle trying to decipher where he even was. He was about to start walking in any direction to figure out where he was when he heard someone walking and a bush rustle.

Elena emerged wrapped in a wool blanket and carrying an extra for Layn. Maybe they had a hide out around here with extra clothes and things. He gratefully took it and covered himself feeling warmer right away. As soon as his brain began to thaw he remembered what had actually taken place and he glanced at Elena worriedly. “I’m really sorry. I guess that’s common though, huh?” he asked. Elena watched him a moment and Layn was trying to figure out if the look said she thought Layn was joking or being an idiot. Layn coloured getting a bit worried and bit his lip unconsciously.

Finally she shook her head and answered him distracting Layn from Jeremy coming out from the same direction Elena had come from. “No, Layn. That is not normal. No one I know changes like that. What you did was…odd,” she finished. As she spoke a flock of birds rose from a tree squeaking and generally being annoying, an ominous sign. One Layn didn’t like.

Layn swallowed and looked at the ground blinking now. “I’ve almost always done it this way though. I mean…sometimes I make myself change when I want as well but, most of the time; I just change in my sleep. It’s a lot less painful anyway,” Layn said looking up at her again. Elena looked as if she wasn’t sure about this but she wouldn’t say anything in front of him. He assumed she would do research on it and talk to the others. Maybe Layn should do some research himself.

“Spontaneous changing,” Jeremy mused now and waved them both to start walking towards the house. Elena touched Layn’s arm and gave him an encouraging smile seeing his dismay. Encouraging but not entirely warm and he could hardly blame her and them. He supposed he had only been here a few days.

“I’m sure this is just something we haven’t encountered yet,” she said and Layn nodded. He wasn’t sure if he was more surprised about her being nice to him or about hearing he wasn’t normal. He knew none of them had really been mean to him at all but he knew they didn’t trust him yet either and were keeping a bit of a distance. If they had to kill him after all they didn’t want to feel bad about it.

“So, you’re not….?” Layn asked trailing off because he wasn’t sure about the right word. They found a pathway to the house and Layn watched the ground to carefully avoid cutting his feet. Next time he’d stash some clothes out here as well. It only made sense.

“At your age changing is never a choice, Layn. You didn’t attack or hurt anyone and you listened, for the most part, when he told you too. So, no you’re not in trouble and I’m not angry. I would like to research this…spontaneous changing though, so I’ll be asking you some questions later,” Elena told him. Interrogation. Wonderful. At least this one would not be painful.

Layn nodded and was silent the rest of the walk to the house. He wondered what Noah would think of this. He also wondered if he should contact Jay about it. His mind could not seem to arrive on any concrete plan, action or thought at all. He must need food.

As they neared the house Layn glanced at the back yard to see Reese and Noah raking the leaves and piling them in bags. Morgan sat on the porch steps looking a bit better but like he had little energy. Layn still wondered what exactly was wrong with him and why he wasn’t better now. “You’ll help them after you eat,” Elena ordered and Layn nodded. Yard work wasn’t his favorite, no chore was, but he would willingly do it. After all he was part of the younger generation and would be expected to do the same work or even more maybe.

Reese looked up and waved at the trio as they came from the woods grinning an easy grin. Would he have smiled if it were just Layn himself he wondered? Probably not considering the other wolf’s attitude to Layn at first, again, not hating him but there was no warmth there. Next Morgan looked up and nodded at them.

Layn tried to catch Noah’s eye but he had only glanced up for a millisecond before focusing on his work again. Damn Layn growled in his head scolding himself. He had thought that Noah and him had bonded a bit and the other boy would be more receptive to taking his trust. He’d have to work twice as hard then he supposed.

Layn walked up the back porch passing by Morgan and feeling the hard wood under his feet, warm and reassuring. He always loved the feeling of wood no matter if he was just near it or touching it. The smell and the feel was the most reassuring and calming thing in the world and every piece of wood and tree smelled different. Black Maple was his favorite and thankfully there were a few in the woods here.

The smell of food stopped Layn dead inside the doorway and his stomach growled loudly. He couldn’t stop though, as eating would require clothes. Layn nodded to Antonio and Nick was milling around the counter with coffee but quickly moved off upstairs to find clothing. He noticed the house was absent of the noise of children so they must be at school.

The young werewolf bounded up the stairs and to the room he was staying in. After a quick shower he grabbed the same sweat pants he had been wearing and then looked down at his knee forgetting he was hurt. Was he supposed to heal that fast? Layn asked himself and fingered the scar. He knew he was a quick healer but this quick was a little odd. He brushed off the odd feeling and pulled on the borrowed pants before grabbing the last clean t-shirt from his bag and pulling it on.

Downstairs Antonio and Nick still were still talking at the counter but they stopped when Layn came through again. The young werewolf tried to ignore the awkward feeling of walking in on a conversation that was not meant for him to hear and looked around for the food but not seeing it. “The oven,” Nick gestured and Layn nodded walking to the appliance and opening it to find three plates of warmed food. Quickly he took one and took a cup of coffee Antonio pushed his way as well. Layn nodded and exited the kitchen so the two could keep speaking either about him or pack business. Who knew?

Layn expected Elena and Jeremy to join him but he saw no one. Maybe they ate somewhere else then. Maybe they just all had important matters to discuss that couldn’t involve him. Fifteen minutes later he was outside and shoving dead leaves into bags. “Fun night?” Reese asked. Layn shrugged and said nothing to this as he started helping them with this hated chore.

“How did you do it?” Noah finally asked after a few more minutes of silence that seemed to last forever. Layn looked at him and shrugged. Noah rolled his eyes and went back to ignoring the other boy then. Layn saw Reese watching them both but he said nothing.

Layn considered his options. He knew the main goal was getting Noah’s trust so the objective to the game was giving him what he wanted little by little. “I don’t know, honestly, Noah. I have just always been able to do it like this. Changing while I sleep and suddenly waking up a wolf. I imagine it is like you changing back while you sleep but I don’t know really. It was as scary as shit the first time too, I was on my own…,” Layn said but then stopped noticing he had both of their attention and probably Morgan’s too but he couldn’t see Morgan from here.

“You were by yourself?” Noah asked and Layn nodded. Reese and Noah then exchanged a glance that Layn couldn’t interpret. He’d have to spend a lot more time around them and the others to understand their body language and looks.

“What happened?” Reese asked leaning on his rake and watching Layn now. He could tell Reese was storing information to tell them all later. Layn wasn’t quite sure how he felt about this. It was like his life was on display for everyone and nothing was private.

“Luckily I was stuck in a room with a closed window and door. I could smell the human though. I whined and scratched trying to get out but no one was near enough. I tried to howl but it didn’t work so well. If it had…,” Layn said and sighed.

“You would have been meeting us a lot sooner and gotten a nice little warning,” Morgan said before anyone else could speak up. Reese nodded and Layn swallowed and looked away. He knew the pack would give one warning for young werewolves in the form of a beating. After that it was death. No second chances. It was much too important to just keep giving chances to every young stupid mutt.

“How many times have you changed?” Noah asked now. Layn thought for a moment before answering. Again, truth or a lie? It seemed as if his life had become a distinction between lying and telling the truth, between trying to figure out what move to make next like a giant chess game. He was never good at chess and it bored him to tears.

“Including this time it’s been about ten or so,” Layn lied. He started changing early, he hadn’t been lying about being alone, but he had been changing since he was fifteen or so. So, he supposed he had really changed about 150 times or so, enough to know what he was doing at least.

“Even I changed before that,” Noah snorted. Layn just stared at him for a moment and then looked away. He knew Noah didn’t have a lot of confidence, according to Jay, or he didn’t when Jay knew him, so Layn would let him have this one.

Reese just shook his head at them and went back to work. “I heard that if you change late you’re always going to be behind on other wolf stuff, wonder if that’s true,” Noah said casually. Layn shrugged not letting it bother him. If he really had been a late changer it would have bothered him but since he was living a lie, this was fine.

“No, it’s not,” they all heard and looked up to see Nick standing there with crossed arms. “It’s a jibe used on pack youth to tease them and I don’t want to hear it again. Let me tell you why,” he said and waited a moment until, as far as Layn could tell, everyone had their eyes on him.

“Daniel, he was a pack member and an outsider. Clay and I…we always teased him because he was a jerk even as a kid and especially when he was around his brothers. This is when the pack was more divided between good and bad. Us and them. My Poppa was Alpha. Anyway, Daniel was a very late changer. He was twenty before he changed and we teased him with the same words. He was a late bloomer and he’d always be late in everything and stuff like that. When the pack finally divided he left with his father. He and father later became man eaters. Reese, you met his uncle Raymond Santos,” Nick mentioned and Reese nodded with an irritated look.

“Years later he attacked us with some other mutts. Payback. We lost two of my friends and we almost lost Clay too, who he kidnapped. If we had become friends with Daniel maybe the incident would not have happened. I think things may have changed but Clay doesn’t. The point is that you are all pack brothers and no one will tease one another like that. Teasing is ok, we do that as a pack, but that kind of teasing, making someone feel ashamed, that’s not right and it won’t be tolerated. Everyone got it?” Nick asked.

Layn nodded along with the others at Nick’s serious look now. “I don’t think he meant anything by it,” Layn shrugged and looked at Noah who nodded.

“I know, but we don’t want any diversity here. You never know how people really feel and we can’t have a divided pack again. Pack brothers are for life and you all need to have one another’s backs. One day you’ll be the ones in charge and teaching the younger generation. Remember that,” he told them and again Layn nodded with the others.

“Heavy mate, heavy,” Reese muttered and Nick nodded before he lunged at Reese and took him down into a pile of leaves. Reese yelled and fought back as Layn laughed along with Noah and Morgan.

“I really am sorry,” Noah said and Layn nodded.

“Not like I wouldn’t do the same,” Layn told him and it was Noah’s turn to nod. Layn continued to watched Nick and Reese in the close fight. Nick wasn’t the best fighter but he was good. Reese was an excellent fighter especially for his age. It was definitely a close one but in the end Nick pinned Reese. Layn wasn’t sure if Reese actually lost or let Nick win. Maybe it would seem bad if Reese could beat Nick but maybe Nick really was just a bit better.

After they cleaned up the mess from Nick and Reese’s fight and finished bagging the leaves Layn walked to the study with his hands shoved in his pocket. He saw Elena at her laptop tying and Clay reading a magazine, something about Anthropology. Antonio was at the second desk still working on his computer. Layn knew, from research, he owned four companies and worked sixty to eighty hours a week. He was an absurdly busy guy. On the opposite couch Nick was going through his phone.

Layn cleared his throat and got their attention but only looked at Elena. “As per our deal, I’m leaving for a bit. On my own so, don’t worry,” Layn said and waited for her to nod or accept this.

“How are you going out?” she asked now. Layn opened his mouth to answer that he would be taking his usual mode of transportation but he then remembered it had been confiscated. With a glance at Nick he shrugged and turned to Elena again.

“I’ll walk,” he answered. Elena gave him a critical look.

“The kids need to be picked up soon anyway; someone will give you a drive,” she announced. Layn inwardly growled but on the outside he only nodded. He didn’t want company. This was a personal mission he wanted to alone. It was slightly embarrassing. Layn stood there for a moment but when no one said anything and it was becoming uncomfortable he took off. His destination was now his room and his wallet.

Next Layn took out the pills he needed to swallow, like horse pills he often gripped, he knew that was dramatic. When he heard voices seconds later he rushed to the bathroom locking the door before anyone could see him. He leaned against the door for a second before he walked to the sink and bent down to get some water reading the medicine. “Layn,” someone called through the door and the young werewolf cursed and dropped the pills on the floor with a clatter. They spilled in different directions around the tile floor.

“One sec,” he yelled and crouched picking everything up and getting it ready again. He was almost out and he needed some serious time by himself to get more. The medication was two pills a day, something called Oxcarbazepine or Trileptal. It gave him some serious mood swings sometimes but it seemed to be working. He did have a fake prescription that worked where he was normally located but it might not work here, raiding the local pharmacy might work if it didn’t but what about after that. He should come clean but it was just too…private he guessed.

Finally he had done what he needed to and shoved the empty pill bottle to the back of the sink cabinet before stepping out. Noah sat on the bed looking at his phone. “Antonio said he is leaving in five minutes,” the other boy informed. Layn nodded his thanks and started to walk away but Noah spoke again.

“You might want to change out of those,” he said gesturing to the sweatpants. Layn bit his lip again and then forced himself to stop. Instead of answering he just shrugged and walked away. He didn’t care how he looked at all, honestly. He wasn’t like other teens in that regard. He did care, though that he was wearing clothes that were not his own but for the most part he could deal with not looking the best at every possible moment. He was jostled from his thought by a call from downstairs seconds later and was in the foyer moments after looking at Antonio who held car keys and had his arms crossed.

“Let’s go, kid,” he said and Layn nodded. He hadn’t gotten to know this pack member much since he started staying with them. The man was Nick’s dad and Nick was ok, mostly, but this guy looked like a mini hulk. Layn figure he had been an enforcer once upon a time. He also figured the man could still beat almost anyone. That wasn’t what bothered him most though. What bothered him most was the fact that he didn’t know how anyone of them would react alone. Humans acted differently when they with others as opposed to when they were by themselves. Did this guy have a mean streak?

The walk to the SUV was silent as were the first few minutes of driving. Layn watched out the window at the trees and scenery spotting civilization coming slowly into view eventually the further they drove. Smaller housed at first but soon it looked more like suburbia. Layn was surprised when Antonio didn’t turn down the main road, probably Main Street, into Bear Valley. Instead, he kept going until there was more greenery than civilization again.

“The twins go to private school in Syracuse,” Antonio said answering Layn’s silent question. The younger werewolf nodded. It figured. The kids were very smart it seemed and the pack had lots of money. Of course they would go to private school.

“Layn, why are you really here?” the man finally asked as they neared a stop sign. Layn’s breath caught in his throat like a breath of air you can’t seem to catch on the wind. He didn’t dare look at the older man. Layn figured he was the oldest in the pack and, he also knew that he was one of the most important members too.

“For…help,” Layn finally answered and chanced a glance at the man who eyed him critically. Finally the man nodded. “Then let me give you some advice. Let us help you. Stop fighting and stop acting like we will kill you every second, ok?” he said and Layn nodded.

“I’ll try, but…you don’t really know what it’s like is all, barely any of you do. You were all raised in the pack. You all know your place and where you fit in. Maybe there are a few exceptions, especially with the younger generation, but still. Being on your own isn’t easy. There aren’t very many people you can trust. There’s not one to teach you anything. Then when people show up they don’t trust you so it’s hard to trust them,” Layn admitted. He had said much more than he intended to say and he chastised himself for it. Always have to screw up somehow it seemed.

“No, I don’t understand completely, Layn, and you’re right. I always had people but I have seen how it has affected Noah and Reese who both have no one. That’s why we try and take in young werewolves and help them. You see we haven’t hurt Reese or Noah yet, so you can relax a little, kiddo,” he advised. Layn nodded then not knowing what to say. Was the man being nice for a reason? Was he laying a trap? Or, for once, did someone just really want to help with no ulterior motive? Layn had no idea and desperately wished he could read minds.

Once they passed the sign for Syracuse and travelled into the downtown core Layn asked the man to drop him off and gave him his number, receiving his in return, to contact him when he was done. “Thanks,” Layn called as he hopped out. He saw Antonio nod but he took off before the man could say anything. He was assuming the man might follow him but he hoped he wouldn’t. This was just another thing about being in the pack he supposed. He didn’t really get a lot of choices.

Layn found the store he wanted after a few minutes of walking and after asking a few people politely where it might be, the local thrift store. In his opinion this was the best place to get clothing. Sure, it smelled like humans but after washing them a few times they were fine. He could tell most of the pack didn’t buy their clothes here though. Especially Nick. The image made Layn laugh to picture is and he shook his head he perused the isles. In the end he found a few pairs of jeans, a pair of sweat pants, a hoodie and some new converse sneakers, well new to him and in much better shape than his own and so he proclaimed it a good day. His purchases came to forty dollars and some odd cents.

His next stop was the pharmacy. This one he was not so sure about but he had to try. With no small amount of courage and the thrift shop bag slung over his shoulder he walked in, trying to look like he owned the place. He’d learned confidence went a long way to getting you what you wanted. This time it worked. The pharmacist looked at the piece of paper skeptically and shook his head but said nothing. Layn ran into many people like this. They would pretend to care but not enough to actually do anything about it. He walked out of the store twenty minutes later with what he needed in hand. He wouldn’t need to let anyone in on his secret and could concentrate on Noah instead. This was the best way. The only way to do what he came to do.

Layn sighed and looked down at his phone texting Antonio to see where he was. Seconds later the other werewolf told him to walk down S Salina Street until he hit E Taylor Street and Wilson Park. It took him a good twenty minutes to walk there at a fast pace but he spotted the kids and Antonio easily. Antonio was not just one to sit on the side while the kids played. Layn saw that this man, when possible, got in and chased the kids around, tickled them and generally ran after them to tire them out. He seemed like a good man but he had been warned that they all seemed nice at first so he’d need to be careful.

Layn sat on a nearby bench and watched them. He hadn’t had a lot of experience with good parenting, except on TV of course, but this looked like the best example he was app to get. Finally the twins begged to go off and join some school friends that came to the park as well and Antonio let them walking back to Layn and taking a seat. The twins didn’t seem like the type that would enjoy other children and playground visits but they were just kids too. He guessed they liked to act like it sometimes.

“I promised I would take the kids out for a while,” he explained and Layn nodded but said nothing. “Did you get everything you needed?” Tonio asked now.

“Yeah,” Layn said not in a very convincing tone. Tonio eyes him for a bit suspiciously but Layn made a point of blatantly looking anywhere but at the man. Finally Antonio’s eyes went from him to the playground where the twins were talking animatedly to some other kids. When he looked back at Layn he had a questioning look in his eyes.

Layn looked at the ground for a moment and then at the man refusing to look away again, be a man he told himself. That is what everyone always said in books and on TV and, even if he had no experiences to compare it too, it felt like a fitting moment to use the phrase.

“Do you all live at Stonehaven, all together?” Layn asked suddenly trying to change the subject. He could tell the man was getting ready to ask him the same questions as before. Maybe he was hoping to intimidate Layn. He was definitely a scary guy but Layn wouldn’t back down. Antonio looked surprised and then chuckled shaking his head and stood calling the kids over to go home.

“No, the boys and I live at my family estate. We’re taking you there in a few days,” he mentioned. Layn froze looking at the man but waited for him to call the kids again before he addressed Layn. “Morgan stays there only sometimes but we have plenty of room and Nick can easily keep an eye on all of you there. Stonehaven just isn’t big enough for everyone,” he said.

“I suppose I don’t really get a say,” Layn asked but the man shook his head. He was sure if he really wanted to stay where he was that Elena would let him. Really, he had to follow Noah though. He wasn’t quite sure what he would do while he was there. He didn’t have a job and he was out of school. Noah had school and the rest has work. He supposed Morgan didn’t though. Maybe he’d hang out with the sick man then.

“Hi Layn,” Logan called when he and his sister came bouncing up. Layn smiled at them and noticed that while they both half smiled and greeted him but they were wary and stayed close to Antonio. It seemed they somewhat trusted him around a lot of pack members but when it was just him and one or two of the others they would be a bit more standoffish.

Once at home Layn briefly waved to the pack members before heading his room, the gather his old clothes, and then to the basement where Antonio said the laundry room was. He wanted to wash some of the smells off of these clothes before he wore them. The door to the laundry room creaked and the steps looked old and worn but, surprisingly, they made no noise as the young werewolf descended.

Catching sight of the cage he knew was down here he stopped and stared at it. The old lumpy looking cot inside, the drain on the floor and the slightly tinged cement telling him this was the room they murdered in, tortured in. The thought made him shutter. How long would it be until he was there? Enduring punishment for his crimes and his future betrayal?

He almost turned and ran from the room and back up the stairs but a shadow was standing in the doorway watching him from the top. Quickly Layn unstiffened and looked away from the person making his way to the washer again and staring at the dials to use it. It was one of the newer models that held more and was more efficient and not user friendly. As he stared at the machine, chastising himself for his stupidity in his momentary second of fear, he heard footsteps descending and smelled as well as sensed someone behind him. Jeremy.

“Here,” the man said softly and reached around him to turn on the washer. Layn watched carefully and nodded to the man as he took some soap and poured it in along with his clothing and shut the lid. Once that was done Layn hopped up on the washer lid and faced the older man now with a shy smile, or what he hoped was one anyone. One thing about being here was that his acting skill might improve some hopefully.

Jeremy smiled slightly back and busied himself with the clothes in the drier. The real reason he was here. Once he was done he let Layn to himself. The young werewolves thoughts were jumble and he was all over the place right then. Shaking his head he looked around and spotted a book on a nearby chair. It must be something someone left while doing something down here. Layn didn’t want to know what though. Hoping off he picked it up seeing it was a mystery, a mystery novel and laundry. Who ever said that werewolves led dull lives?

Layn let the gentle vibrations of the washer beneath him lull him into the story he was holding onto. He was just starting to get to know the protagonist when he heard a soft throat clearing. Startled he looked up to see Noah watching him bemused. Layn coloured and set the book aside crossing his arms now. “It’s not often I get startled anymore,” he admitted and Noah nodded plunking himself down on a chair he had fetched near the cage and drug over.

“We need to talk,” he said ignoring Layn’s statement and the soft hum of the washer stopping. Layn swallowed and watched the serious boy suddenly feeling a bit of dread creep in. There was the set of his jaw and his green eyes growing so much more serious now as well as the tightness around his face that reminded him of his father. Layn could not deny that Noah was definitely Joseph’s son, a much younger version, and that scared him a bit. Joseph was not a nice man now. Did Noah have the same cruelty inside him? The same capacity to turn mean when it suited him? Joseph used to be a timid guy and scared of what he was but now, on the run from the pack and having lost everything because of them he was not so timid anymore. How much did Noah act like his father Layn wondered?

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