Call Me Aria
“Of course,” I answer, taking a sip of my coffee. “Why wouldn’t they have missed you?”
“My dad is the Beta. He’s pretty busy all the time. I didn’t think he’d notice I was gone.”
I frown. “He definitely missed you. I could hear it in his voice. I don’t know much about werewolves, but I do know that just because your dad is a Beta doesn’t mean he doesn’t love you. He’s probably pretty strict, though, huh?” I ponder and he nods his response. “From what I heard on the phone, I think that just means he cares. What about your mom?” I ask him now.
He frowns, his shoulders slumping. “My pack is at war with some rogues,” he tells me. “A couple years ago they attacked us and took my mom. Usually when one mate dies, so does the other, but my grandma Penny said she thinks that my dad is okay because having me means that he still has a piece of her with him. But he had to step down as Alpha because he’s not as strong anymore. So now my uncle is Alpha and my dad is his Beta. Sometimes they don’t get along.”
I nod, taking it in. Kids will really tell you anything.
“Your dad is probably just over protective because, well, obviously that’s how a Beta is going to be, but also because you’re the most important thing to him now. I wouldn’t question if he missed you are not—that’s pretty much a given.”
“Hey,” he says now, slurping on his Sprite, abruptly switching subjects. “How come if you’re not a wolf you know what I am?”
“That is a story for another time,” I tell him, glancing at the time on my phone. “Your dad will be here soon, so we should head back.”
He finishes his food quickly, looking up at me with tired eyes. “Do I have time for a nap?”
“Aria, I presume?” He asks, two guards waiting anxiously behind him. I just nod. “Is he here?” He wonders aloud. “Is he okay?”
I step aside, inviting him in. He pauses just inside the doorway, chuckling when he finds Waylon asleep on the couch.
“He’s doing great,” I tell him, giving him a brief overview of the condition he had arrived in.
He runs a hand through his hair guiltily. “I should’ve been there. I should’ve never let him out of my sight. I can’t believe he got hurt.” He looks at me now, a gleam in his eye. “Lucky he found a witch to help him out.”
I frown at him.
“I know that our people aren’t on the best of terms,” he says quickly. “But I truly do thank you. You didn’t have to help him, and you did. I will be forever grateful.”
“Of course,” I tell him.
I’ve never really understood what caused the hatred between witches and werewolves. I think it has a lot to do with pride—werewolves couldn’t cope with the fact that witches had more power than them so they found some gems and herbs that weaken the flow of magic. Obviously, this angered my kind, but to me it just sounds like surviving.
He walks past me, picking Waylon up and cradling him in his arms. He stops in front of me. “Is there anything I can do to repay you?”
“No,” I assure him. “Waylon is a great kid—it was an honor to take care of him. Be safe traveling home.”
He nods, a small smile on his lips, and then he’s gone.
Two weeks later, I still find myself thinking about Waylon, wondering if everything healed smoothly. From the very little time I spent around him, I already know he’s resilient. I’m sure he’s doing fine… but I can’t shake the odd sensation that I’m missing something.
I walk into work, flicking the lights on. It’s about 5 AM and we don’t open on Sundays, but I have some paperwork to catch up on. There’s more flowers on my desk, same as every day. In the trash they go, along with the note. I play the voicemail on my work machine, listening to Matt tell me about a rabid dog he’s bringing by on Monday, and Mrs. Johnson telling me about how she’ll be bringing Fluffy back to see me personally, that Linda was not equipped to deal with her pure-bred Siamese. I roll my eyes.
The last message makes me tense.
“Aria Naomi Grey. This is your mother, in case you’ve forgotten. I have put up with this foolishness for long enough. We know where you are, and there’s no doubt we’ve been very lenient, all things considered. If you’re not home by Sunday morning, we’re coming to get you. Halston has done more than enough apologizing. It’s time to forgive him and move on. It’s what’s best for everyone. See you soon.”
She makes me so mad, I could scream. Who does she think she is to tell me how to live my life? I’m twenty-three years old. I worked hard to make something of myself, and thank Bastianna that it helped me get away from them when I needed it the most.
Don’t get me wrong. I love my mother.
She’s just very set in her ways.
Before I can delve too deep into my depressing memories, there’s a loud aggressive bang on the front door of the office. Magic shoots to my finger tips, ready to be used. I creep slowly out of my office and towards the foyer. I peek around, expecting to see my mother outside the glass door, but instead I’m shocked to find Talon.
I release the breath I didn’t realize I was holding.
I let him in and he and four guards push their way inside. I’m about to ask him what’s going on when he turns to me, pleading in his eyes.
“We need your help,” he tells me. “I know that it’s a lot to ask, but our doctor mated and left for another pack. Something is wrong with my sister, so I came for you as soon as I could. Please help her.”
“What’s going on?” I ask him.
“She’s five months pregnant, and she wasn’t supposed to shift, but she says it just happened, like she couldn’t control it, and now she can’t shift back and she’s in a lot of pain.”
“You realize that I wasn’t trained to help werewolves. It would be much safer to find a new pack doctor,” I tell him seriously. I’ve worked on cats and dogs, sure, but werewolves? My knowledge is very limited.
“Dr. Grey, we are in the middle of a war. You, I trust. I can’t trust anyone else—not with my sister.”
I want to tell him no. I’m not equipped to handle something like this. What he really needs is a pack doctor—another wolf to tell him what’s going on. I don’t know much about shifting.
But that’s not what I tell him.
“I can come take a look at her,” I tell him, guarded. “I’ll see if there’s anything that I can do, but I can’t make any promises.”
He nods solemnly, accepting my terms. “My car is out front. We have a doctors office in our town, so you won’t need to bring any equipment unless you’d just rather have your own.”
“Just my bag should do,” I say, retrieving it and following him, locking the door behind me. “Would you be offended if I follow you in my own car?”
He smirks. “No, Dr. Grey, I would not be offended.”
“Call me Aria,” I insist.
The ride isn’t too long, but they’re located deep in the mountains. The winding curves break off into multiple hidden roads, and just when you’re about to think you’re heading into oblivion, suddenly the trees give way to a small town. There’s a strip of storefront, home to apothecary and grocery shops, as well as a hairdresser and a bank. There a few restaurants and clothing stores in stand-alone buildings scattered throughout. We pass a large neighborhood made up of old mill houses, and then another made up of newer homes. Finally we arrive at a small, but modern doctors office. The building is sleek and new, made up on large glass windows and steel. Aside from the sign reading Pack House MD, I never would’ve known it’s a medical center. I’m honestly a little impressed with the town—it feels like I’ve arrived on the set of a movie.
I step from my car, taking everything in. This place feels very homey. Very inviting.
Talon appears before me, smiling. “Not what you expected?”
I smile back shyly. “I didn’t know what to expect, really,” I tell him truthfully.
He doesn’t reply, just gestures for me to follow him. We walk through the front door, smooth jazz playing softly. He leads me through the hallway, towards the back. We enter a bright, white room with a hospital bed at its center. Curled up at the foot of it is a beautiful auburn wolf. Her breathing is labored, but she seems peaceful otherwise.
“You can get a closer look,” he encourages me. “She’s expecting you.”
Tentatively, I step closer to her. Gently, I pull my fingers through her fur and her tired eyes flutter open, meeting mine. She seems inquisitive and afraid, but doesn’t seem to mind my presence.
“Hi, I’m Aria,” I introduce myself. “Do you mind if I feel your stomach?” I ask her.
She rolls over, whining in pain. I feel her abdomen muscles, finding them to be tight. Her baby is active, kicking my hand as it glides across it. Everything seems to be okay but I’d have to get a better look to know for sure.
“You seem fine, the baby is moving, but I’d like to her an ultrasound if that’s okay. It would just rule out any conditions that we maybe can’t see. Then maybe we can pinpoint what’s keeping you from shifting back.”
She nods gratefully.
“We have the equipment, just let me get the NP here to give you a hand,” Talon tells me.
“Great,” I say, my eyes roaming over the wolf for any other signs of distress.
“What in the hell is this witch doing here?”