Twisted Fate

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Chapter 30

-Astrid-

“So, do they range from different age groups?” I continued to question Arlo about this place. I loved seeing the brightness in his eyes as he talked about the hard work he and his brother put into their job. My shoulders relaxed, and I’d felt as if I were floating on clouds at the low rumble of his voice. I found myself feeling like that a lot when he was around. God, this man was seriously affecting me without even trying.

“We have some teenagers, but most of them are under the age of fifteen,” Arlo told me as he led the way to one of the homes. From what I could hear, there were a lot of children inside waiting for his presence. “This group is my favorite. You’ll love them,” Arlo said, joyfully reaching for the door. We hadn’t fully made it through the doors before a high-pitched squeal almost busted my eardrums. A little brunette-haired girl darted from her seat and came running with open arms. Arlo playfully lifted her and sat her on his hip.

“I missed you so much, my little nugget,” Arlo cooed at the girl as she clutched onto him as if afraid he’d disappear. I stood back and watched their moment in awe. She was a beautiful little girl with the biggest eyes to make anyone fall in love with her cuteness. Upon studying her face, I caught her strawberry mixture scent. She wasn’t a human child but a young pup…and something else. As I stepped closer, she finally looked past Arlo and locked eyes with mine. The little one tilted her head to the side.

“Who’s she?” She pointed at me, eager to learn my name. Arlo carried her to me, smiling between the two of us.

Arlo named the little girl and gestured towards me, “Rosie this is, Astrid Collins, the alpha of the River Ash pack. Astrid, this is Rosie.”

“You’re an alpha,” Rosie asked, astonished. Her eyes twinkled with admiration. Being a female alpha was probably the coolest thing she’d ever heard of. Because naturally, that title didn’t belong to anyone categorized in the female population. Women were too incompetent to handle such authority. Well, I grabbed that harsh prejudgment by the balls and dragged it across my needled feminism. For myself and little girls like Rosie, daring to be anything but acquiescent.

“The first woman in my family, to be precise,” I proclaimed, giving her my best smile. She returned the expression and extended her hand. Her small fingers gently brushed through my hair. I was taken back but flattered by her charming gesture.

“You’re pretty,” Rosie told me sheepishly. Arlo shook his head in disagreement.

“Pretty is an understatement, Rosie,” Arlo said more to himself, staring at me with those intense silver eyes. Great, now I was blushing. Pleased with my reaction, he smirked and brushed our shoulders as he walked by.

“Astrid, come have a tea party with me!” Rosie exclaimed. Who was I to deny this little angel? I gladly put on the flower hat she offered me and sat in the small chair next to a bear named Mr. snuggles.

After I got to play with Rosie, Kane and Arlo introduced me to the rest of the children. I understood quickly why Arlo said this was his favorite group. They were different from normal society, like inhuman characteristics different. I got to know all about their powers and capabilities. Rosie and three other girls were the only pups out of the whole bunch.

Rosie stuck to Arlo like glue as he showed me around the recreation rooms. They held casual conversation throughout my tour while I walked behind them at a distance, careful not to interrupt their bonding. Rosie acted very maturely and smart for her age. She never ran out of things to talk about. Although I could see Arlo cared for all the children, no one had the power to make him feel happy like Rosie. It was clear as day that she is his favorite.

The trio of pups were showing me some of their favorite toys when I caught a she-wolf walking inside the recreation room from my peripheral. “Hey, you,” She chirped, throwing flirtatious looks.

“Hey, Abby,” Arlo said, visibly tensing at the shoulders. He glanced in my direction uncomfortably as she threw her arms around him. And that’s when I knew. That gut feeling that all women possess when a skank-on-wheels rubs it in your face that she’s had your man before. All the red alerts were sounding off. The way she fixed her hair, the batting of the eyelashes, lingering touches, purposely crossing her arms to perk up her breasts. I knew all too well the games she was playing to get Arlo’s attention. Because I played that same game every time he came near me.

Afterall, he was my mate.

But suddenly, reality came to slap me in the face. Arlo was the person destined for me, but that didn’t change the fact that he didn’t belong to me. He could do whatever he wants. Be with whoever he wants, even if that didn’t necessarily sit well with me. The cold, harsh truth was there, waving its big-breasted, five-foot bombshell in my face! Arlo and I couldn’t be together. Our differences kept us a light-year apart.

But ask me if I gave a damn?

I think the fuck not! Show her who he belongs to. I could already hear that little whisper in my head that connected my wolf and me. The thin line between rational human and aggressive animal threatened to snap as I watched that bitch brush up against my mate. Arlo looked everywhere but at her and me. His flushed face screaming send help. Now would be the perfect time for Rosie to stop coloring and demand Arlo’s attention back. Instead, she got bored and ran off giggling with her friends. I was breathing erratically, and my hands shook with rage. I’d decided enough was enough when she leaned in closer and kept staring at his mouth.

Arlo watched me warily as I stomped towards them. The she-wolf looked up surprised when I stood in between them. She had the audacity to narrow her crap-colored eyes and look directly in my blazing heterochromia ones. Mistake number one was thinking she had a chance to win Arlo. Mistake number two- looking an alpha directly in the eyes. I gave her a judgmental once-over and turned to Arlo.

“Don’t be rude. Introduce me to your friend,” I playfully nudged Arlo’s arm. Though my tone of voice and face clearly stated otherwise. Pissed off wasn’t even close to describing how I was feeling.

“Abby… I’d like you to meet Astrid Collins,” Arlo murmured. He looked between Abby and me before taking a safe and also smart step backward. A sickly-sweet smiled climbed my lips as she extended her hand out.

“I’m the schoolteacher here at the better place and Arlo’s good friend,” Abby purred the latter, tipping her chin. Game on bitch. I gripped her hand with an empowering force as if aiming to crush her bones. Abby winced and snatched her hand away. At this point, I could care less about who knew of my business, and the next thing I knew, I spoke up possessively.

“And I’m Arlo’s mate.” Abby’s mouth nearly fell open at my statement. She looked back at Arlo with a combination of hurt and jealousy. His silence confirmed her unspoken doubts.

“I didn’t know you found a mate. Congratulations,” Abby muttered, seething with jealousy. She glanced at me once more before glaring back at Arlo, “Sergeant Dean will be arriving soon, so you might want to prepare Rosie for his visit,” She spoke tersely and left. Arlo’s shoulders dropped at the mention of this, sighing heavily. I was more than happy to see that bitch walk away but her words threw me off.

Sergeant? What was our military doing here?

Arlo’s demeanor changed as he called for Rosie and quickly led us to his office. He looked extremely bothered by the announcement and remained quiet. I wanted to ask him what happened but decided to keep quiet for now. I didn’t get the chance to ask any questions when we reached his office. Arlo crouched down to Rosie’s height and gently held her hands.

“Rosie,” His voice ladened with dread, “Sergeant Dean is coming to see you again.” Rosie’s face instantly crumbled with fear.

“But I was a good girl last time,” Rosie whined, clutching the head of Mr. snuggles. Gone was the silly and playful little girl. The happiness she felt from earlier vanished from her face.

“You were a very good girl last time, and I need you to be on your best behavior today as well.” Silence fell upon them as Arlo finished speaking. They stared at each other, communicating unspoken promises. Rosie’s cheeks flushed, and her eyes swelled with unshed tears.

“Will he take me away?” Rosie whispered, tears streaming down her face. That question seemed to shatter Arlo’s heart to pieces. It almost looked like he wanted to cry himself, but he cleared his throat, swallowing his emotions down. Seeing Rosie so sad and terrified, I wanted to envelop her in my arms and tell her everything would be alright. But would everything be alright? Why was the military coming to visit her in the first place?

I thought about it for some moments, and then it finally registered. Rosie is a hybrid. The military was coming to do their monthly inspection.

“She’s a- ”

Arlo shook his head before I could finish, “Half-wolf, Half-witch,” He confirmed.

“Hey, look at me,” Arlo raised her chin and wiped the tears away, “No one is going to take you away. This is your home. Sergeant Dean is only coming to talk to you and take a blood sample like last time,” Arlo reassured. Rosie nodded in understanding, mumbling an ‘okay’ before hugging him and burying her face in his neck. My heart ached for Rosie. I wished I could do more to make her comfortable, but Arlo seemed to be handling the situation very well.

One of the staff members came knocking on the door moments later to inform us about Sergeant Dean’s arrival. Arlo and I held Rosie’s hands and walked her outside. The energy died out and became tense. Everyone was scurrying to their rooms and avoiding the front entrance at all costs. I turned to look at Arlo, who held a grim expression, bewildering me. Why was everyone so nervous about this visit? In the short time I’d met her, Rosie seemed like a good kid. I doubted she’d fail any procedures or expectations.

As we walked out the doors, I caught the black vehicle parked in the lot. My heart sped up, and my palms began slipping through Rosie’s from the sweat. And then the driver-side door opened. I held my breath. I thought our military of wolves would be visiting but I was terribly mistaken. The gravel crunched beneath the 7-foot Lycan that stepped out and went around the car. Holy fuck, he’s huge! His dark eyes bore into the three of us as he walked up the porch steps, and I almost shit my pants.

Don’t panic. He’s just a Lycan…who can massacre everyone on this property with the snap of his fingers. No big deal, right? I straightened up and aggressively chewed on the inside of my cheek, almost drawing blood with my canines.

“It’s alright, girls. He’s just here to do his job,” Arlo muttered. But the look he gave me said, calm down because he can smell your fear from miles away. I took the hint and focused on my shoes—no need to piss him off by accidentally making eye contact.

Arlo stepped up and greeted Sergeant Dean with a firm handshake. Meanwhile, I stayed back with my tail between my legs... no, actually, that was Rosie clutching my legs for dear life. I was impressed how Arlo acted so professionally and unfazed by the Lycan. He acted as if he were talking to no one important. Which I wasn’t really sure was a good or bad thing, but Sergeant Dean looked calm, so that was a good sign.

My nerves were simmering down as Arlo, and Sergeant Dean conversed for a while. I thought his visit would be over soon until another vehicle appeared into the parking lot. Damn! Another Lycan came out from the car and joined the conversation.

Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit. I’m freaking out. Am I making it obvious?

Rosie peered up at me as I shifted on my feet. I tried calming myself down because I didn’t want to look scared in front of her and the intimidating Lycans’. To make matters worse, the newly joined Lycan spotted me. I held Rosie’s shoulders and rubbed them to calm myself more than comfort her. He scanned me from head to toe and tilted his head to the side.

Yup. I’m definitely making it obvious.

“Who is this?” The Lycan nodded towards me, making my heart drop down to my feet. Shit! My ears were ringing, and I could almost taste the vomit threatening to climb up my windpipe. Arlo looked back at me and gave me a small smile. Though I could feel his uneasiness. If the Lycans found out he is my mate, then we’re fucked. Rosie wouldn’t be the only one getting questioned.

“Alpha Astrid Collins from the River Ash pack,” Arlo answered. Breathe, Astrid. Don’t freak out and screw this up for everyone.

“That’s quite odd,” Sergeant Dean commented, his eyes narrowing between us suspiciously, “Given your family’s long-term feud.” Of course, they knew our pack’s history. It was a part of their job to know about these things. Arlo looked back at the two Lycans, remaining silent.

“Well, you know what they say, Sergeant Dean,” I spoke up, desperately trying to ease the vibe.

“What’s that, Alpha?” His posture straightened, and he zeroed in on my face. Arlo’s fists clenched anxiously as he waited for me to respond.

“Better to bury the hatchet,” I said, half smiling. Sergeant Dean only hummed in response, never cracking even the slightest smile. The atmosphere was so thick with tension I nearly passed out. Any longer, and I thought I might run away, but to everyone’s relief, Sergeant Dean and his friend went inside Arlo’s office, seemingly content.

I let out a deep, exhaled breath as they disappeared inside. I hadn’t realized I was holding my breath for so long. Arlo winked at me as if saying good save and led the Lycans and Rosie inside. Rosie had finally relaxed after seeing Arlo and me calm. However, deep down, I still felt terrible.

The urge to coddle her became strong as I went inside and watched from the office window. Sergeant Dean poked her right arm with a needle to get her blood sample, causing her to cry. Arlo held her hand until the pain subsided and the needle was out of her arm. They each took turns talking to her and writing some notes down on a pad. They even went as far as to watch her play and interact with other children. This didn’t feel right at all. My stomach knotted, and I suddenly felt the urge to cry. Is this what Arlo had to go through in his childhood?

The visit overall went well, and the Lycans finally left, diffusing the tension. As Arlo said his goodbyes to Rosie and the others, I made my way to the vehicle to prepare for the long trip to Salem. Silently promising to myself that I’d fight for the people like Rosie and Arlo who were different. It was then that I vowed to try and make positive changes for the hybrid community. My mate would be proud of me one day.

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