Friends and Enemies
After a long and tedious crash course in “badassery”- as Bryce called it- we decided to call it quits for the day. The guys weren’t dense or uncapable, they just had different training. Their fighting style was formal and organized but they quickly found out that your opponent won’t always fight the same way as you. I showed them some pointers on knife throwing, tossed them around a bit, and even showed them how to throw a javelin properly. Sure, my style was archaic, but that’s what the Spartan Pack practiced religiously. We didn’t have guns or a lot of technology. We relied on our training, our weapons and our skills to win battles- maybe that’s why they weren’t here anymore.
“I’m fucking starving, let’s go get some grub.” Bryce said through heavy breaths. He was large and cumbersome and clearly not used to smaller, quicker opponents.
“I’m with you, man.” Soren agreed. He looked to me, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “You in, Asenna?”
“Yeah, come on little wolf!” Bryce jeered. “There’s a great pizza place around the corner.”
These guys weren’t half bad. Soren was a stickler and a bit old school, but still, there was a certain comradery about him. Bryce was just fun in general-even though he insisted on calling me “little wolf.” He was happy to take on anything and always had a smile to give. Surprisingly, I didn’t mind their company.
“Sure,” I said. “I could go for some pizza.”
We made our way to a small Italian restaurant and took a table on the street side patio. Bryce wasted no time in ordering himself a beer and Soren and I just shook our heads as we looked through the menu. I never understood why people liked alcohol. It smelled weird and dulled the senses from what I had seen in my recent years. I’d always watched people stumble around towns from buildings to cabs, listening to their loud, jumbled speech and laughing when they puked their guts up on the sidewalk. I think I would pass on the boozy libations.
Soren and I agreed to split a basic pepperoni pizza after Bryce insisted on putting pineapple, sausage, jalapeños, and anchovies on his.
“So, you’ve really been living out there alone this whole time?” Soren asked with genuine curiosity. I just nodded as I sipped on my water. “Where did you stay? How did you eat?” He continued.
I shrugged. “Well, its easier as a wolf. Nobody would have let a kid go around begging for food or a place to sleep. That would have been a one-way ticket to the police station.”
We paused our conversation as the waitress brought two steaming pizzas to our table. We all focused on eating for a moment and I couldn’t help but laugh a little as I watched Bryce shoving two pieces of anchovy infested pizza into his mouth at a time. The guy was a human garbage disposal.
“You’re saying you were in your wolf form that whole time?” Bryce asked, an edge of disbelief in his voice as he chewed his food. “For eight years?” He pushed.
“Not the entire time,” I argued, “but most of it.” They looked at me like I was crazy. “It was easier. I could hunt, I was strong enough to protect myself, I could find shelter in the woods to sleep in. The wolf side of things feels more natural to me…safer.” I took another bite of pepperoni pizza, growing colder by the minute.
“Weird.” Bryce garbled around a mouth full of pizza.
“But how did you get away from…” Soren trailed off. I knew what it was he wanted to say.
“Why does everyone want to know about that?” I asked, claws itching to come out. “Why does it matter? They’re dead. Gone. Forever.” They looked down to the table, ashamed of their intrusive questions. “It’s in the past- so just leave it dead and buried.” I growled.
The truth was, I didn’t know why I was still alive. I didn’t know how I managed to get away with my life. I didn’t know why we were attacked or who did it. I didn’t know what we had done wrong. I didn’t know a lot about what had happened, but I did remember the screams. The howls and gunshots. The blood and fear. The bodies lying around our town. The pictures shattered on the floor of my home. I remembered the aftermath. I remember being alone.
“Hi Bryce, Soren.” Said an annoyingly bright and sugary sweet voice behind me. I turned to look at the person it belonged to and was met with a lovely blonde that was all legs, high cheekbones, and big green eyes. Her perfectly groomed brows arched, and her face got this tight, pinched look. “So, this must be the rogue Marcus let in.” she sneered. She looked me over- messy hair and all- and I could tell that she wasn’t impressed. “She doesn’t look like much. It seems Marcus is getting soft in his age.”
“Come on, Sky.” Bryce implored. “Asenna isn’t that bad. She even showed Soren and me a few tricks in the compound.”
“Oh, I’m sure she did.” She said with a smirk.
Yep. I didn’t like her. I didn’t like her attitude. I didn’t like her voice. I didn’t like her perfect face and perfect hair and perfect looks. She was one of those girls that you just couldn’t help but hate without even getting to know her.
“Anyways.” She quipped with a flip of her hair. “Have you seen Ry? I didn’t hear from him last night and haven’t seen him all day.” Her voice was whiney, and I found it comical that I knew exactly where Ryker was last night, and she didn’t.
“Don’t worry Skylar, I’m sure his balls are still locked away in your purse.” Soren interjected and Bryce almost choked on his beer, coughing and sputtering through the laughter.
I covered my mouth, trying to contain the laugh that was daring itself to come out. I didn’t care if this girl wanted me dead, but I wasn’t about to get in a throw down in the middle of the streets in front of the sons of law enforcement and border control. I was reckless, not stupid.
“Real mature, guys.” Skylar sassed. “Have you found dates yet?” she asked them. I could tell she was actively trying to disregard my existence.
“No date for me, I’m working security.” Soren said as he fished some cash from his wallet to pay the waitress.
“Why is that not a surprise.” Bryce muttered as he rolled his eyes. “I swear you never have fun anymore, man.”
“What about you, Bryce?” Are you going to ask Marcy?” Skylar asked with a suggestive tone.
Bryce tossed back the last of his beer and took a deep breath without meeting her eyes. “I don’t know.”
She balked a bit and a look of anger came across her face. “What do you mean? You guys have been talking for weeks!” If her voice got any higher, I was sure my eardrums would burst.
He just shrugged his shoulders and I briefly caught a glimpse of him looking at me before his eyes darted away. “Maybe I’m looking for something different.”
Her face turned red and her venomous green eyes came down on me.
“Dates for what exactly?” I asked them nonchalantly. ’Keep the death stares coming, sweetheart.’ I thought to myself.
Soren was the first to chime in. “Every year we have a ball before The Howling.”
“It’s just a big party, really.” Bryce piped in.
“What’s The Howling?” Hello, antisocial, loner werewolf here! Would it kill them to give me a crash course?
“It’s nothing you need to concern yourself with.” Skylar hissed.
“Can it, blondie.” Bryce blurted. He shared a loaded look with Skylar before turning his attention to me. “The Howling is our sacred mating ceremony. We gather beneath the full harvest moon and hope the Goddess leads us to our true mate.”
I’d never given much thought to mating. When you’re on your own, I guess it doesn’t really seem like a feasible option. I was so young when I lost my pack, I didn’t remember much about the mating ceremonies or rituals, but I remembered the stories my dad told me about when he had heard my mother’s call. He had said it drove him mad until he had tracked her down. They barely knew each other, but he was already so in love with her. Our mating bonds were iron clad and unbreakable. My parents were bound to each other until the end. I never considered that possibility for myself.
“It’s pack members only.” Sky sneered at me. “So, maybe you’d be better off just sitting it out. I’d hate for you to be embarrassed.”
I chuckled and shook my head slowly. This girl was ignorant of who she was dealing with, but that was fine. I’d rather her think she had the upper hand when the time came.
“Oh, don’t worry.” I said lightly as I phased my claws out to tap them against the table. “None of your males could keep up with me anyways.” I flashed a smile at her, showing my fangs in all their glory. She looked shocked and maybe even a little offended.
Skylar huffed and spoke to the guys. “If you see Ryker, tell him to call me.” She stormed off in a whirlwind of blonde curls and clicking heels.
“Nice meeting you!” I called after her, taking sick pleasure in the way her shoulders tensed up. I sat back in my seat, crossing my arms over my chest. “So, who’s the bitch?” I asked them.
They looked at me with raised brows and slightly slack jaws.
“That was Skylar Abbot.” Soren said, as if he was talking about the Queen of England.
My face obviously didn’t show enough regret or shame for my behavior, because Bryce added: “Ryker’s fiancé.”