In the Shadows of Dryden

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Chapter 29 - Red riding hood...

‘This is it!’ She thought to herself, hearing the wolf’s growling coming closer to her. This would be her end. She was about to become ‘Red Riding Hood’ inside the wolf’s belly and to complete it all, the wolf was none other than her boyfriend’s mother.

At that moment, all her happy memories came rushing into her mind like a huge flashback. Happy moments with her family, like when she had first seen and held her baby sister in her arms. Memories of her and her friends joking and having fun, sometimes even getting in trouble together. Her first love, which in the end, she found out that it wasn’t “love” after all. Coming to live in this new town and making new friends. She even remembered the many times she and Rick went out together. With her eyes still tightly closed, she began wondering what it would have been if they could have been together. If things had happened in some other way.

’Is this it? Am I really getting eaten by a wolf? What can I possibly do to win against that beast? Just because I don’t have powers like that wolf, it doesn’t mean I can’t or shouldn’t try fighting back.’ With her sudden burst of courage, Clarisse placed her hands on the wall beside and behind her, getting enough support to carefully stand up.

Seret’s eyes glared at Clarisse as she flanked her.

***

*KNOCK, KNOCK, KNOCK!*

“Mom, food is ready. How’s Clarisse? Can I come in?” asked Richard while waiting on the other side of the door. After a minute without getting any answer, he pushed the door open and went inside his room. It was empty and looked just like before he left it, with the exception of the dress laying over his bed. Walking around his bed to look at the dress, a faint smile curving his lips as he imagined Clarisse dressed in it. A low sound pulled him from his thoughts, immediately getting him to concentrate on his heightened hearing. As soon as he identified from where it was coming from, he turned, striding to the bathroom door.

*GRrrr GRRrrr GRRRRrr*

A deep growling sound came from the white wolf. Her long snout was cringed, showing her sharp ivory fangs already dripping with saliva. Her iridescent eyes pierced through Clarisse, making her falter.

Richard stood against the door when another, louder growl echoed from behind the door. His mom’s growl. With wide eyes and open mouth, Richard backed away from the door.

“Clarisse…” He whispered the hair on his neck standing while fear ran down his spine for the first time in his life. “… mom… MOOOM!” He screamed, banging furiously on the door. “Don’t do it! Please, don’t hurt her!”

Seret’s attention darted momentarily to the door, giving Clarisse the chance to get the shower hose in her hands. The wolf turned her attention back to Clarisse, getting more and more agitated with each of Richard’s bangs on the door. Seret had to get it done before he managed to break the solid wood door and she knew it wouldn’t take long. Positioning herself, she licked her saliva dripping fangs and pounced.

The violent banging on the door was enough to alert Thiago of the commotion going on inside his son’s room. Stepping inside, his eyes went directly to his son.

“What’s going on?” Thiago ran to his son, his mouth ajar, his eyes widening as he heard the growling from the other side of the door that Richard was so violently hitting on.

“MOOOOOOM! DON’T BITE HER!” He screamed, ignoring his father’s presence. “MOOOOM! I WILL NEVER FORGIVE YOU IF YOU DO THAT!! OPEN THE DOOR!!!”

The door began to crack as Clarisse quickly turned the water as hot as it could be. Truth was, she wasn’t sure if hot water alone would help her defend herself but she had to try something. Pointing it straight at Seret’s face, the steam from the hot boiling water made the wolf fall to the ground whimpering in pain as she backed away. Readjusting the direction of the water, Clarisse managed to force Seret into a corner. She held to the shower hose as if it was her lifeline, her last stand against her imminent death, just as Richard broke through the door.

As he busted inside, he immediately began rushing towards Clarisse but halted when she suddenly directed the hot steaming water in his direction. She wasn’t trying to hurt him, no, she only wanted him and everybody else to stay away from her.

Richard dodged the hot water as his father rushed in toward Seret.

“Clarisse, it’s me! I won’t hurt you, you know that! Please…” he begged. Their eyes met and Clarisse finally let herself relax and dropped down to the floor. Avoiding the hot steaming water, Richard approached her. Turning off the water, he gently took the shower hose from her hands to place it back on its holder.

“Are you alright? Did she hurt you?” Glancing toward his mother, who was already back in human form and covered with a towel while his father hugged her, both crouched on the ground. Richard’s eyes scanned Clarisse’s body for injuries. Gently picking her up in his strong arms to take her back to his room. She was trembling, trying to hide in his embrace. It was clear to him that she was in complete fear, maybe even in a state of shock.

Seeing the state she was in, Richard sat on the bed and just held her against him, gently caressing her hair while whispering comforting words in her ear.

A few minutes passed before Thiago walked out of the bathroom holding his wife. They moved in the direction of the door, exiting it. Before his father closed the door, he gave an apologetic nod toward his son. Richard didn’t say or do anything, just watched them leave with a stern expression on his face.

Another moment of silence took the room until Clarisse finally squirmed on his lap, looking around. Her shy gaze slowly met his.

“Are they gone?”

“Yes… Are you hurt? Did she… bite you?” She could see his agonizing pain painted on his chiseled face.

“No…” Lagardly shaking her head. “Get me out of here, please.” She managed to say in a whisper.

“Alright. Let’s put some clothes on first. It’s cold outside.” He replied, reaching for the dress.

“No, please. I do not want to wear that.” Clarisse’s eyes turned to look down to the floor, avoiding him. “I don’t want to wear HER clothes.”

With a nod, he lifted her over the bed so he could stand and went to grab something for her to wear from inside his dresser drawer. When he turned back to her, he had a pair of matching black sweat pants and shirt.

“These are the only clothes I still have from when I was a teen. They should still be a bit too big for you but still smaller than what I use now.”

Only then Clarisse realized how she was completely naked in front of him. Her eyes widened, her cheeks turned crimson as she quickly grabbed the clothes from his hands to cover herself with them. Richard seemed surprised for a fraction of a second, standing there looking confused, with his hands still up as if he was still holding the clothes. As realization struck him, he immediately turned around and moved a bit farther away to give her some space. He felt his heartbeat accelerate, his body abruptly feeling hot. The gravity of his mother’s attack on Clarisse had totally blinded him. He tried to calm himself, concentrating on his heartbeat while he could clearly hear Clarisse’s heart playing the same tune as his.

“I’m sorry… I didn’t mean to look…” He said in a low raspy voice. She didn’t answer him, getting his curiosity to make him give a little peek at her. Luckily, she had her back to him and didn’t see him looking. Satisfied of her just being busy dressing, he looked forward again, placing a hand on the wall to try and relax his stiff body.

A moment later, he heard her sitting back on the bed.

“You… you can look now.” Richard didn’t lose time, turning to gaze at her. The clothes he had given her were just slightly bigger. His eyes detailed every inch of her body, stopping when he finally got to her ankle.

“I need to treat that!” Approaching her, he grabbed the first aid kit and kneeled in front of her, carefully lifting her foot up so he could remove the small branch that was still stuck inside her ankle. “It will hurt a little.” He said, not waiting for a reply before removing it.

“Ouuuuuuch!” She screamed, grabbing the bed linen and tightening her fists on it.

“Sorry…” Richard worked on her injury, checking and dressing with medicine where it was needed before he started to bandage her. Once he was done, he stood, placing the first aid kit back on the side table, and offered a hand for her to get up.

“You think you can walk?” She took his hand and began to stand, carefully and slowly adjusting her body so she wouldn’t place too much pressure over that ankle.

“I think so…” Clarisse managed a few steps, grimacing every time she had to step with her injured foot. Without warning, she felt her body being lifted from the floor, looking at him.

“I will carry you. You’re in pain and I don’t like seeing you in pain.”

“No! I can walk! Rick, put me down!” She squirmed but stopped the moment their eyes met. They didn’t need to exchange any words, she understood that he was feeling guilty and wanted to do everything he could to help.

Richard took his time walking back to the car, truth was, he wanted to take advantage of the moment to hold her close to him because he was so sure that he would never be able to do that again.

Once he placed her inside the car, he went around and sat beside her, on the driver’s seat. With a heavy sad sigh, he looked away from her, hitting his steering wheel.

“If I had any chance for you to accept me before, now I’m sure it’s all gone.” Clarisse looked at him with caution, a bit sideways. That masculine chiseled face of the man she loved reflected a heartbroken man. She didn’t say anything for a while, they just sat there in silence, without looking at each other.

“Why did you bring me here? What is this place?”

Richard shook his head, total defeat plastered on his face.

“Can you wait for me here, while I go inside to get a shirt?” He asked, ignoring her questions.

“Rick, tell me the truth!” She touched his arm, sending shivers throughout his entire body and successfully getting him to look up at her. “What is this place? Why did you bring me here?” She repeated, staring at him a bit afraid of his answer.

“You know why. This is my house, we were gonna have dinner with my parents.” Clarisse promptly shook her head, looking a bit more firmly at him.

“The truth, Richard! This place is way too big for the three of you! I’m not stupid! There are way too many rooms inside.”

Richard let out a sigh.

“I told you the truth, this is my house but it’s also the packhouse.” He leaned back in his seat looking up.

“Pa… pack house? In wolf pack?” He nodded. “More wolves!” Her voice came out barely audible but he nodded back at her again. “How?” He tilted his head, questioning. “How come there were only you three inside today?” That got Richard to look away for a couple of seconds before meeting her eyes again.

“I had everybody spend the afternoon elsewhere prior to my parents arriving. I wanted it empty for the four of us.”

“Somewhere else?” He nodded again.

“There is a building nearby where the pack members usually meet at night for some drinks. Some went there, others are training, patrolling the borders or still at work.”

“Can you take me somewhere for us to talk without any wolves around?” This time, Richard just held her gaze, unsure of what she wanted to talk about. He thought that after that ordeal she had just gone through, she wouldn’t want anything else to do with him. Yet, here she was, asking to talk in a more private place?

“Sure. I will just go grab a shirt first.” He motioned to open the car door but Clarisse held his arm again.

“Ri… I don’t want you to go inside. I don’t want to be alone, even if I lock myself inside this car.” His surprised face immediately turned to face her. She was visibly shaking, tears rolling down her face. Seeing his mate like that sent a pang through his heart. It was so painful to see her crying, he just hated it. The worst part was to know that she was hurting because of him.

“I have a small cabin nearby. Would that work?” His hand gently brushed her tears away and she found herself leaning into his hand.

“Yes. Thank you.”

Richard strapped the seatbelt on them both before he drove to his cabin.

The cabin was totally made out of wood with a small porch upfront. It wasn’t very big, having a small room with a single bed, dresser, and a chair in a corner, a little living room, and a big kitchen used to skin his hunting game. There was also a small bathroom inside the room. The place had the minimal necessities for someone to live in it.

After helping her out of the car and inside the cabin, he left her seated on a loveseat while he went to grab a shirt inside his room, coming back a moment later with a black polo shirt and a pair of jeans and leather boots.

Walking past her, he arranged some logs inside of the fireplace and squirted some accelerant to start the fire.

“It gets cold around here during this time of the night.” He commented as he poked the firewood around the fireplace to get the fire going as he sat on a wooden chair.

“Tell me. She really didn’t b...”

“No…” She answered before he could finish his question. “Sorry for hurting your mom.” She apologized, making him look her way. “She seemed… concerned for you…” She suddenly paused, taking a deep breath. “Even if her method seemed a bit aggressive, I still answered her. I just don’t understand why she decided to eat me.”

“I’m pretty sure she wasn’t gonna eat you. She planned on doing something else.” He said, avoiding her eyes to stare at the fire. “She will be alright though, hell, she’s probably already healed. That wasn’t bad enough for a werewolf.” He risked a glance back at her when he finished talking, seeing her staring back at him with a tilted head, waiting for more explanation.

“Already healed? I saw her face, she was quite burned! She would probably need to visit the hospital!” Richard let out a little chuckle, shaking his head and turning a bit on his chair to better face her.

“No. To be honest, she could have attacked you even with that burn. She could have pushed through the pain of that boiling water burning her to kill you if she wanted to. For some reason, my mom decided to play along and faint being hurt in front of you.”

“... but…” Clarisse looked surprised but he didn’t give her a chance to say anything else, continuing with his explanation.

“Werewolves have much better regeneration than a human. Something that would take a person several weeks to heal, we heal in a mere hour or two. It’s not as fast as a vampire regeneration but it’s much faster than a human.”

“Va… vampires?” Clarisse promptly tried to stand with the shock of hearing about vampires being real, something that Richard had blurted out without thinking. With a couple of quick strides, Richard grabbed her before she could fall, helping her sit back on the loveseat.

“Sorry! I forgot you didn’t know about vampires.” Her expression was frozen in a mix of surprise and terror.

“So… they really exist? Oh my God!” She looked around, trying to digest the information. After a couple of minutes in silence, she finally managed to recompose enough. “How can you be so sure that your mother wasn’t gonna eat me?”

Holding her hands on his while he sat beside her on the love seat, she saw his face become a bit stiffer.

“My mom wanted to turn you into a werewolf. Only a royal or its descendent can accomplish that.”

Clarisse frowned, looking around, thinking.

“A royal… werewolf?” He nodded. “Your mom is a royal werewolf?” He nodded again. “That makes you…”

“A royal descendent.” He completed her phrase as their eyes met, her face in total bewilderment.

“But, if she’s a royal, shouldn’t she be leading the pack?” Again, Clarisse frowned, thinking. Richard chuckled lightly, amused by her unexpected interest.

“My parents stepped down for me to take over the pack. In all truth, they are both alpha wolves like me.”

“But she said that a pack without a luna was a weak pack. Why would they step down for you if you haven’t gotten your…”

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