Oh, fucking hell, I thought as I squeezed my eyes shut against the aches and pains after half a night as my wolf. I couldn’t remember feeling this sore from a night out in a long while unless something happened and he pushed himself. My eyes flared open, something did happen. I struggled to recall the details, but then the vision across the river hit my brain.
Kelly. Kelly Fucking Jones.
I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about that goddamn Witch for ten days. When I laid down to close my eyes at night, the first thing I saw was her braced underneath me, her mouth open in a gasp, moaning. When I woke, I wondered what she was doing, what she was wearing, how was she coping with the loss of her aunt? Things that I never planned to find out. Half the time I would push them aside and escape to the mindlessness that was the wolf.
When I let him take over, it was similar to being in the back seat of a car. He was driving with his animal instinct, and yeah, I could shout at him to do something, go somewhere, but since he had the wheel, he didn’t have to listen to anything I fucking said.
Most times, I didn’t want to say anything. But this morning, I could have come up with a few choice words. I had woken up around 1 am from another lewd dream for the second night in a row and shifted to let him take over. He was running along the river, towards home and the rising sun, when he smelt vanilla in the breeze coming from the South. That fucking vanilla. As I predicted, it was ingrained into my psyche now. He followed it and found her, running. Running for fun.
I was irate. Didn’t she remember a man had a machete to her throat not two weeks ago? Was she trying to be butchered as well, who the fuck knew when they would next show up or what the hell they were planning? And here she was fucking around by the river, a mile away from anyone who would hear her scream. My wolf got it though, he could sense that she was being foolish and he followed her, putting on enough of a scare show to get her to turn back home.
Coffee had been made when I entered the kitchen and I said a quiet thanks that my dad was having a good day. He walked into the room not a minute later as I was still working out the kinks in my body and shuffling to pour coffee. In his sixties, he wore his hair still long in the traditional manner of our tribe, and it had turned salt and pepper long ago. I had inherited my sharp nose from him, but Jess and I got our mother's eyes.
He stared at me at the coffee pot, looking me over with hesitation, as if he didn’t know me. Maybe not a good day then.
That was the real bitch about early onset Alzheimers, you never knew whether they were worse or the same. Never better, only ever worse. Making coffee was good though. He knew what the machine was for. That was the analogy the Res doc gave us. It’s not about forgetting where you left your keys, it’s forgetting what keys do. Shit was scary.
And here I was probably looking at my future. For some unknown reason, 1 in 5 male Weres had full onset Alzheimers once they got to about 65. Most speculated it was because of the shift of personalities that happened, but science of course would never tell us the secret. We had been lucky in our pack and beat the statistics for a good while, but got a double dose of it when the Alpha, my father, started to show symptoms. So now, here I was trying to suck the knowledge and stories held in my father’s decaying brain on a daily basis.
We both sat at the small kitchen table with a cup. Our daily ritual, the one thing that I kept constant. We sat and talked while warming our hands. And on this particular day, I felt I really needed help, I needed my dad’s wisdom. This Kelly issue was getting out of hand.
“Dad, how did you know mom was your... mate?”
His face showed surprise, a first in a long time. Deep wrinkles around his eyes puckered from years of sun and laughter.
“You come across a nice little she-wolf?”
I shook my head. “Not in the slightest. I guess... I just wanna know what to be on the lookout for, how to guide others, and so on.” Bullshit, I was spouting absolute bullshit to my disabled father.
He eased back in his chair, satisfied with my lies.
“Well for one thing, there isn’t a light that shines down from the heavens and gives you a big red pointing arrow to them. You will never know a hundred percent, probably until they die. Then you’ll know.” He stared down in his coffee, thinking about my dead mother. Oh boy, get him out of it.
“Well, the first thing is instant attraction,” he cleared his throat. “You see her, him, and it’s like Moses parted the Red Sea and there is the Venus riding in a clamshell. You won’t have seen anything like it before.” Fuck, I remembered Kelly against the firelight and the halo. I dipped my head to the table while he continued so he wouldn’t see my concern.
“And well, they should probably feel the same, and you know, something becomes of that.” He looked down at his hands in embarrassment, but not as much as I felt having my father think about sex.
“And, if you’re ever parted, it will be like a piece of you is missing. Your brain will send you their face to let you know what’s missing, your wolf will seek her out.” God damn it, three out of three so far. I took a sip of my coffee.
“Anything else?” Please let there be something else. He looked deep in thought.
“Well, no, but the biggest indicator is that the she-wolf feels the same. Attraction is one thing, but wolves seeking each other is the kicker.” I leaned back in my chair.
“And it always has to be a wolf?”
My dad, even though he was the one with a malfunctioning brain, looked at me like I was crazy.
“Of course it has to be a wolf. The whole mate thing is a wolf process. Your wolf wouldn’t choose someone it couldn’t be with, that it couldn’t run along beside.” I gave a small smile and sighed with relief. My dad noticed,
“So, what’s her name?”
“Oh, no one, just a weird infatuation I’ve had for a few days, but definitely not a wolf, so not worth talking about.”
He looked down at his own cup before smiling. Jess walked in from the mudroom, carrying firewood. On any working day, Jess was the resident handyman for all who lived on the South part of the Wenatchi reservation. He usually handled calls as they came, but if any one of our tribe needed medium sized repairs or renovations, he would put it in his calendar.
“Any more of that left?” He asked and nodded to the coffee. Getting up to fill the pot and flip the switch on the maker for more, he sat down at the table with us.
“So, what are we talking about this morning?”
“Your brother here was just asking about mates, seems there’s a girl he can’t get out of his head.”
Jess also raised his eyebrows in surprise, mirroring Dad.
“Really? You haven’t seen anyone for a while, well, except I heard about that wiii..”
I kicked him under the table, hard. Taking my hint, he stayed silent and went to pour himself a cup of coffee and start with the eggs and bacon. Dad, noticing the exchange, smiled into his cup.
We let the table go silent as we ate breakfast, but before long, a knock at the front door made Jess leave the table and return with Smith in his wake. I quickly gestured for him to meet me in the office and after saying good morning to Dad, he left. Finishing up my plate, I motioned for Jess to follow me to see the Beta.
Our three bedroom house was definitely more than what others had on the land, but no one would ever call it spacious. The one added feature that made it standout, besides the porch that looked out over the river, was it had an additional room that was built for Alpha duties, such as financial, housing, government stuff and so on. It’s not that werewolves couldn’t lead normal lives, but explaining to your boss that you skipped work because you were literally having an out of body experience really didn’t fly with employers these days. The office had a big oak desk, a couch on the opposite wall and a chair in between. Smith was sitting in the chair, and Jess took the couch, lounging on it and making himself comfortable.
“Well?” I asked him.
“It’s not much. After the Witch did whatever to the Postmaster, all he could tell us was that the dude was a legit employee, quit the day before the raid, and all he left was a vague forwarding address at some building in Olympia.”
My brow knit, Olympia? The capital of Washington was a 6 hour drive from here and no one would ever think of commuting for something like a postman job.
“Show me the address.” He passed it over, a P.O Box in downtown. But something was...off about it.
“I think I have seen this address somewhere??”
Smith compressed his lips. “You have send mail to Olympia?”
“No, well yes, but not that, I..I don’t know. I feel like I have seen it on a return envelope or something” As acting Alpha and therefore Chief of the Wenatchi people, I handled the government and business side of the reservation. We had people on the reservation who weren’t werewolves and were left out of that side of the tribe. But they still had needs and wants, jobs and houses. There were many people who were the face of the reservation, the elder chiefs, but ultimately, they left the paperwork to me. It was a lot.
Lately I had been dealing with oil and mineral companies who wanted to survey our land, even go around our heritage protection, I had planned on using the coven to help, but that was currently on the backburner.
There was just too much for one person, so when I saw this address, I couldn’t say for sure what or where I had seen it on, but it was definitely not the first time it had been across my desk.
Jess piped up from the back “Well, those guys probably didn’t count on being smoked and they had planned on walking out of there. So whatever they left was probably legit.”
Smith grunted in agreement. This was something we could follow.
“Okay, this is the only lead right now, so pack a bag and see if you can stake out that box. It might be nothing, but we should at least see who is picking up the witch hunter’s mail.”
Smith shifted in his seat, a few lines of worry on his forehead.
“Can you put someone else on it? I’ve got that thing on Friday I’ve got to be back for.”
“You know, taking Kelly back to Seattle. She is taking the 8:30 bus on Friday.”
I looked down at the pile of papers on my desk and pretended to arrange them. I hadn’t forgotten his arrangement for a moment, just forgotten how soon it was. I would not let this bother me. I would also not let it happen.
“Uh, yeah, this is more important, Smith. If you’re not back by Thursday, I’ll have somebody else go with her.”
His brow furrowed and he looked like he was going to say something. Yeah, I knew what he was planning with Kelly. He quelched whatever opposition he had and stood.
“Well, I better make tracks then if I gotta be in Olympia.” I nodded briefly.
“Text me when you get there.” I avoided his eyes and kept them down on the desk, afraid he would see the hint of jealousy.
A few moments after he left and we heard the front door close, Jess from his reclined position on the couch spoke up.
“So...that was weird.” Deciding not to comment, I asked.
“Can you do it?” My brother looked puzzled.
“Can you take Kelly back to Seattle and stay with her for the month?”
Raising a surprised eyebrow, he sat up and leaned on his knees.
“It's four days away, Smith will be back by then.”
“He won’t make it.” I simply stated.
“But he sa...”
“Jess, he won’t make it,” I said with a little more force. He looked me up and down, noticing that I subconsciously had my hands gripping the desk, I immediately let go. He stayed silent for a few more moments.
“Kelly? Really? I mean, I get it, she’s hot. But she isn’t really...”
“Stop right there. It’s not that. I just don’t want Smith to be Smith and force anything, then we have the wrath of Witches on our ass. But I need someone I trust to go with her. I mean, she is book smart for sure, but on the streets, I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t notice if the school marching band was tailing her. You don’t have anything pressing on, right?”
Jess was silent for a few more moments, assessing me with a small grin. Dammit, after that tidbit Dad gave him, of course he knew.
“Yeah, I can go, brother. If it means that much to you.” I wasn’t going to bite, he was going, that was that.
“Thanks, in the meantime, why don’t you spend some time with Dad if you’re going to be away for the month. Hand over your schedule, and I’ll take it over.” He stood up, gave one last grin and returned to finish breakfast.
I grimaced, Smith and I had been friends for a long time, when his family had moved from the North Colville Res when he was in his teens. He was good looking and the ladies loved his brand of charm. Unfortunately, he loved them too, many of them, and often.
I didn’t want that for Kelly, no matter what she was or wasn’t to me. Even if hard candy shell Kelly did want it, soft Kelly would probably not be thrilled. I leaned over my desk and rested my head on the stack of papers in my inbox, remembering the image of her raising her hand over her head in salutations earlier that morning. The cold air showed her breath and the breeze carried it across the water. I squeezed my eyes shut in hopes to get her out of my head.
Kelly Fucking Jones
Friday morning came quickly, with a text that Smith still hadn’t seen anyone at the box. I instructed him to keep at it for Friday but then come home on Saturday afternoon, since the post office would be closed. He wouldn’t be happy, he showed that, but he also respected the role as Alpha and would follow instructions.
Jess and I rolled into the Denny’s lot early on Friday. Kelly and Margaret walked towards our car, Kelly subtly checked me head to toe. For some reason, it made me a little less angry with her that she could affect me so and get hers in return. She had on those skin tight black jeans, paired with a turtleneck, boots and a trench. She also had a frown on her face. We were still walking towards each other when I read her thoughts.
“Change of plans, Jess is your roomie for the month.”
Margaret came up behind her looking sour. “I liked the big one more”
Kelly nodded her head in unison. “I have to agree. No offense, Jess, but I kind of feel better with the idea of a big guy to step in and you know..,” and she made a punching motion. Typical woman, thinking big is better. Unless, she actually just wanted Smith to accompany her? Beside me, Jess retorted in his own defense.
“You wound me, Jones. Besides being, you know, a werewolf, I’ve been doing Krav Maga for about 3 years now. Much better than just brute force, no one will touch you. I promise.”
This was ridiculous.
“Look, you don’t get to pick and choose who is your personal serf for the month. Smith had better things to attend to, and Jess here is more than able to protect a grad student who is going to sit and go to classes for a month. Just keep a low profile.” Frowning again, she looked to her Gran before acquiescing and turning to Jess.
“I hope you don’t snore.” What the fuck> She thought they were going to share a bed? The thought of anyone, let alone my baby brother in the same space as her made me itch.
“Jess, will take the couch of course” I declared. Jess gave me his aggravating grin and countered.
“Though if you offer the bed, I won’t refuse” A quick smack on the back of his head wiped the grin off and suddenly the bus was pulling up and we had to say our goodbyes. I grabbed Jess and whispered some basic rules to him. No late nights, no friends over, shadow her everywhere, even bathrooms. He told me he understood then we parted and I watched the two walk towards the bus together. Something in my chest tightened.
This was the first time Kelly and I had been in the same space, and we hadn’t really said anything. She had unknowingly put me through hell for the last two weeks, and I wasn’t even compensated with anything for the misery. I jogged to the bus and grabbed her hand, she parted her fingers against mine to widen her grasp and feel more of me.
“No more morning runs by yourself, okay? You go anywhere, you tell Jess and he comes.”
She nodded but didn’t seem to put me and the wolf from a few days ago together. Our hands unclasped and the bus sped away to Seattle.
I walked back to my truck, rubbing my hand against itself and trying to remember the feeling of hers in it. Margaret stood next to our cars, eyeing me speculatively.
“What are you doing, William?” She asked skeptically. I did my best to school my poker face into place.
She wasn’t buying it, and her face changed to one as if she knew the answer, as if I had just confessed everything that was running through my fucked up head.
“Whatever you think you are doing, it’s not going to happen.” I gave her a grin, playing this game, huh? The protective grandmother. I liked it, but it didn’t suit her and it would have been more convincing if she wasn’t always scowling at Kelly. I decided to play dumb.
“What is not going to happen, Margaret?”
This seemed to light a fire under her.
“Weres and Witches do not mix, young man. It doesn’t end well for Witches, it never has, so keep it to yourself.” She almost said it with a sneer and I saw a glimpse of an old angry lady that had gone through something once. Still, the idea of her telling me what to do because of what I was made me bristle. I retorted with anger and sarcasm.
“Christ, Margaret, tell me how you really feel. Do you also oppose me for your precious granddaughter because I’m half Native American? Or is it purely just a wolf thing? I promise, I never come to bed with fleas.”
She shook her head as if what I was saying was ludicrous.
“If you feel anything for her more than physical, Will, you will let her be. Whatever your wolf is telling you, it’s best for Kelly if you don’t have any more contact with her.” I stared back confounded, what my wolf was telling me? What the hell did Margaret Wardwell know about what my wolf was telling me? She didn’t let me think more on it though.
“I can make you forget her, if you want?”
I stilled. “What? What do you mean, make me forget?”
“Whatever time you had together, I can take it away, if you like,” she said with a look as if it was the simplest thing in the world. My hackles rose and I gritted my teeth at her. She looked shocked for a moment like she had seen my counterpart on the inside and he already fucking hated her.
The thought that someone would take my memories of Kelly enraged me, enraged us. I would rather live a hundred years with those memories and never any more than have them stolen. Instead of answering her, I sharply turned and walked back to my truck. She was still standing there as I drove out of the lot and onto the main road.
As my breathing calmed, I reflected on what she offered and how just a few days ago, I was cursing Kelly for being embedded into my brain. But when it came to someone actually offering to take that off my shoulders, it made my temper flair and nearly physically hurt to think I would be left bereft. I was so fucking fucked.