A Dormant Howl

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Chapter 3

To reject or not reject, that is the question

After Papa died I kinda lost myself. It's not as if I became withdrawn or despondent, but I wasn't including myself in life, either. And if anything, I did more to repress my beast, just like he taught me. Mama helped me, too. Despite not being a full-blooded Lycan, she knew what Papa had been teaching me to do-- how to mask my scent, to keep my beast dormant until I was ready. Though I understood some of it, I sometimes felt like I was missing something. But I never brought it up with Mama-- she had other things to take care of. And yet, the pain lingered and still does, even a year later.

I have my friends, still, and my brothers are supportive too...but things are just not the same without him. I am trying to find constructive ways to deal with the pain, as well as get answers about our clan, mating, and other areas of interest. Which is why Mama and I have an appointment after school to see Lennon. Another purist that still remains in our clan, he's not a Lycan but a Sorcerer who claims to communicate directly with Goddess Cerridwen. Can you blame me for being skeptical? It's partly the reason I am not talking about it with my friends, who already view my religion in jocular ridicule.

Though Mama is the one who helped me make the appointment and also encourages RJ to see him, she doesn't trust Lennon. She and Papa always thought he was changing and not in the light. Ever since the pack lost Natalie, they were losing faith in Lennon. And yet, he was the closest and only source of solace and information we had. So see him, we must.

"Earth to Desdemona!" A girl's voice chirps in my ear. Snapping out of my reverie, I see my favorite people in the world. They point to the clock on the wall of the library, which shows it as nearly 3:00pm. I sigh, knowing I need to meet with Mama after this. My friends, however, have other plans for me.

"Close the books, and pack your bags-- time to head home before heading out for some fun!" Leigh Anne whoops excitedly. This earns her some frowns and shushing from the school's library patrons and the head librarian. But after offering them a small apology, my friends help me put away some of the books I had been using for a report and push me out into the "fresh air" of the school's hallways.

Daphne, Tameekah, Lucie, and Leigh Anne are all trying to get me to change my mind about hanging out after school. "Are you sure you can't reschedule with your mom?" Daphne pouts. I sigh and give her a side hug as we walk through the halls of school and towards the doors. We all link arms as we walk, reminding me of when we were little girls and I had finally found my friends again. I shake my head, determined.

"Sadly, no-- we have some important stuff we need to take care of. And... I actually have an appointment to speak with Lennon." I admitted. within the clan consider Lennon an elder and still highly respected by many of our clan, but he creeps me out. It's believed he was the Druid counsel when the clan was under the leadership of Alpha Charles back in Ireland. History tells us that he came to the States with Alpha Seamus and his brothers, yet he didn't look a day over forty-five years old. Magic, I guess.

My friends all stopped in their tracks, gaping at me. I sighed, knowing they would be shocked by this. Though they knew my family had been dealing with a lot and knew something about our religion, they were not necessarily fans of our priest. Though I couldn't say I blamed him I tried my best to offer him the respect he was due.

"That balding creep, who lives on the edge of the woods?" Lucie and Leigh Anne chime in sync, eyes bulging. Tameekah and Daphne shudder and gag as I try to shush them all and continue our walk.

"Lower your voice!" I hiss, pulling them aside into a huddle. Meri and her Venereal Goons sauntered away, casting us suspicious glances and sneers. Great-- all I needed washer or her friends finding out about my appointment.

"And he's not a creep-- he's my family and clan's priest! A holy man," I insist halfheartedly, not totally believing my own words. The girls snort and roll their eyes.

"Desi, come on-- the guy lives out in the woods, off the beaten path, and doesn't even come into town. The dude's an axe-murderer waiting to happen!" Lucie insisted. I looked at Leigh Anne, who simply nodded.

"What she said," She affirmed. I sighed and ran my hands over my face, feeling exasperated. I wanted so much to explain about him, what he could do for me...but how to explain? How to not give away my secret, when only a few knew about it?

"My mama and I are seeing him for grief counseling," I said, speaking a half-truth. My friends' exchanged glances before looking at me, eyes worried and waiting for me to continue. I tried again, my tone lower and more insistent.

"We've been taking my father's passing very hard-- especially my brothers. We've already had to sell some of the land and livestock, as well as hire on another manager at the gym. So we go to him for counseling."

"Oh, Desi, I am so sorry," Tameekah said, giving me a hug. We continued walking out of the school. Sitting on the steps, we all sat and talked away from everyone. Meri and her friends were nowhere to be seen, causing me to relax a little bit.

"He's also been helping me with my family history and local history as well. Making a proposal for college," I admitted, which was also very true. I wasn't going to lie to my friends-- not if I could help it. My friends sighed, chuckling.

"Of course, something to do with school. Girl, will you ever settle down and have some fun?" Tameekah said. I sighed and was thankfully saved by the honking of my mother's car horn. Jumping up, I waved good-bye to my friends and hopped into the car.

"So, how was school today?" Mama asked, her eyes focused on the road as we drove through town. I began to talk animatedly about my classes, some drama between Meri and her newest flavor of the week when I looked out the window and stopped. I looked at the landscape as it sped by, a knot forming in the pit of my stomach.

"Mama, why aren't we heading towards Lennon's cabin?" I asked, turning slowly to look at her. She cast me a sideways glance, lips pursed. Instead of answering me, we pulled onto the dirt road that led to the ranch.

"Mama, answer me!" I insisted. As she parked the car and got out, I followed her doggedly into the house. Dropping my book bag onto the table, I watched my mother-- suspicion and anger starting to rise. Finally, she turned around and looked at me.

She began, causing the pit of suspicion and anger in my stomach to grow, "I canceled our appointment with Lennon. I don't want you to see him-- either in the community or alone in his cabin." I stared at my mother, my anger and suspicion unfurling into shock and horror.

"Mama, what are you talking about? He's a respected holy man and--" I reasoned, but she spoke over me. Her eyes were shining, and I could see Rubi beneath the surface, attempting to take control.

"Promise me you won't see him!" They ordered. I knew I should listen, answer her and agree, but my anger and suspicion came back full force.

"Why? He has answers I need and--" I snapped, my anger growing stronger. Suddenly, they were both there-- Rubi and my mother --their hands pinning my arms to my sides.

"Trust me-- something is wrong. Conon and I, we sensed it. Conon and Roland both--" As soon as the names fell from their lips, I saw my mother once again as tears began to fall from her eyes. I hugged my mother, holding her fiercely for a moment before she let me go. After she was gone, I wandered outside and stood on the porch, looking at the ranch. After a moment's silence, I decided to take a walk down memory lane and revisit a place only Papa and I knew about.

I have heard people say that it is not good to be alone-- that instead, we need to stay close with the people we love. But sometimes, people can be wrong...sometimes solitude is necessary to survive. Though the memories...the memories would take me back and make my heart break. As I walked, I felt tears stream down my face and I almost wished I could be that same six-year-old naïve girl who loved fishing at the lake, deep within the forest just beyond Lennon's cabin that bordered our territory. The laughs we shared, the fairy stories he was so animated while telling them.

As I came to a path in the woods, a memory stirred-- tickling the edges of my senses. It felt like...magic, real magic. Turning down the path, I allowed the feelings and memories to take me on a journey...

It was a warm summer afternoon after Natty died. We went to our spot searching for the fairy glen. Deep within the forest there was a meadow with tall blades of wild grass and various colored wildflowers.

This field was used for many mating ceremonies, birthing ceremonies, dedications to the Goddess, trainings, and a meeting spot for friends. But, more of then than not it was empty and my escaping place. This particular day was very hard for me. It was the first day of school for the year and the first day without Natty in class with me. I had met my human friends that day, but I had not really been interested in talking or getting to know anyone. My best friend in the whole world was gone...no amount of chattering or forced interactions could make me forget that.

When school ended for the day, I was shocked to see my father standing outside the school. When my brothers and my other two guardians saw him, they all exchanged a look before heading in the opposite direction towards the buses.

"M'aingeal," he called to me, his voice stopping me from following after the boys. "You're coming with me today-- the boys have the day off."

I looked up at him, feeling a little lost and small in comparison. Papa had been so big, so strong, so full of life...it was hard to imagine such an imposing specimen of Lycan kind could be gentle. He held out his hand to me, insisting that we walk home. I took his hand and walked alongside him, his big feet keeping in time with my small feet.

"Why are you here, Daddy? And why can't I go with the boys?" I said, eyes staring at the road in front of us. I heard him chuckle-- a low, rumbling rattle that made me look up. Though he looked tired and sad for me as well as Jeremiah's family, there had been a brightness in his eyes. Some sort of impish mischief.

"Doesn't my little girl want to walk with me? I just wanted the company." He admitted, giving my small hand a gentle squeeze. I nodded, feeling a little bubble of joy come to the surface at this admission.

"Really? But what about work?" I asked, still focusing on the road. Papa then scooped me up into his arms and carried me as we walked away from the road and towards the forest. Papa admitted that he took the day off from his chores on the ranch and he asked Deputy Sheriff Jergens to oversee the mid day shift at the gym while he picked me up from school.

As we moved further into the forest, I began to feel afraid. Though I did not admit that to Papa-- I did not want him to think I was a big baby, despite his carrying me. Maybe he sensed it, or maybe he really was just trying to be mischievous. The next thing I knew Papa had blindfolded me, explaining to me that he had friends he wanted me to meet but I'd have to keep my eyes closed, that his friends were very shy and wanted to be kept a secret, so I couldn't know where they lived.

"But, Papa why can't I know if you know?" I sweetly whined, not really understanding the gravity of the situation. Papa did not say anything at first, intent on making sure the blindfold was good and tight.

"Well, you see, m'aingeal, their chief and I came to an agreement many years ago," He admitted slowly. I gasped in disbelief. A chief-- here, in the woods? That could not be possible, especially as this was Silver Bullet territory. Papa continued talking.

"As my reward for saving his only daughter from the clutches of an evil garden gnome, I could bring my only daughter to meet his." I giggled at his explanation. But I couldn't tell if he was lying or not. But, why would a father lie to his daughter...right? So I asked another question.

"That's so cool...but why do I need to be blindfolded?" I asked, my hands reaching for the blindfold covering my eyes. I heard my papa chuckle, his hands covering mine and bringing them back to my sides.

"Well, one of the conditions was that I couldn't let you see where they lived." He explained gently. I opened my mouth to ask another question when he held a finger to my lips, halting my words. "Now, no more questions, or we will miss our meeting."

Without removing the blind fold, I heard Papa shift into his beast, Conon. I knew Conon's smell was slightly different from Papa's. While Papa smelled of motor oil, tobacco, and fresh cut grass, Conon had an earthier, musk like quality that stood out amongst the forest. While Papa was impressive and tall, his beast form Conon was even more magnificent. He stood about six feet nine inches, he was a dark grey color with patches of white on his feet and chest. He then lifted me back up into his arms and began to run through the forest, the air and stray twigs whipping at my hair and face.

"Athair, are we there yet?" I yawned. I always called Conon Athair (father)-- it was a special nickname between me and him. I snuggled into his chest, feeling ready to fall asleep. Athair always had that effect on me. It wasn't that he meant to lull me to sleep, but his playful chuffing always did that.

Do not fall asleep on me, little pup. You don't want to miss the show, do you? He mind-linked me and then lightly kissed my forehead. We're nearly there, sweet baby.

"Will I get to take the blindfold off, Athair? Pleaseeee..." I half yawned, half whined. His hearty laugh tickled my cheek that rested on his thick skinned chest. We stopped abruptly and I was placed down upon the lush foliaged ground. He then bent to remove the blindfold from my eyes and, with a light chuffing sound, alerted me to open my eyes.

I blinked slowly at first, allowing my eyes to adjust to the shiny summer sun. We weren't in the familiar meadow I knew like the back of my hand. No, no we were standing in a completely different part of the forest – a place I had never been. As I looked around the meadow and began to move forward I looked across the way and stopped in my track, mesmerized by what I saw.

Within a small clearing, almost like a man made butterfly garden, was a wooden miniature city. Small huts carved into tree trunks, tree houses nailed into the base of the tree and winded up in spiral staircases of the bark. I was in awe. It was real! I was made to believe that fairies were real and they lived within my forest – in my clan's territory!

I gazed up at Athair and smiled. He looked down at his daughter in human skin and beamed. Both Papa and Athair were happy I was happy on such a grim day.

I opened my eyes and saw the glen-- it had grown over in the years past, the fairy village gone. Reality settled in: despite being born to unbelievable creatures who were perceived as myth and legend, there were no fairy tales. The little houses and things were gone. In my heart, I felt as though they had died with Papa. Turning away, I went home...ignoring the tingling and probing feeling of eyes watching me.

Pearl Patchett

Sitting on the couch huddled in a knitted blanket, Mama sat drinking a cup of coffee and was looking through an old photo album. As I drew closer, she looked up at me and smiled. Though she was happy to see me, her eyes shone with sadness and unshed tears. I felt She looked so small, so human...which she wasn't anymore.

"I just got back from my walk. Are the boys making dinner?" I asked, feeling my insides cringe at the thought of either of my brothers attempting to make dinner. As much as I loved the two meatheads, the only things they could do were boil water or reheat something. Mama smiled, her body shaking as she sighed.

"They're just reheating some soup and baking a pre-made loaf of garlic bread. Why don't you sit with me? I wanted to show you something." I moved slowly to the end of the couch, scooching closer to look at the large album she held out for me. Looking at the pictures, I saw a photo of a young girl, with my eyes and pale skin but her mouth and nose were more classically feminine and beautiful.

"Is--is that you and grandma? And that's--?" I asked, moving to sit next to her and take the album from her. Mama draped her arm over my shoulder and smiled, before answering. "That's me and my parents-- your grandparents," She said warmly, though her voice held a touch of sadness. My hand touched the faded photo, looking at the human side of my family tree.

I could see the resemblance between my mama and her mother, my grandmother. But the rather stalwart and grim-faced man in the photo-- I could not see the connection between them. Though I had seen my parents send letters to my grandparents over the years as well as invitations to important events, they had not ever come, even though they lived close by. In fact, as I looked through the album with her, I could not remember ever seeing them in my childhood or see them in town when we went.

Mama was born within clan territory, but wasn't apart of us. Her family had lived within the clan territory for several years and, though not related to or linked with any of the clan families, had heard the rumors and legends. Despite believing and knowing (or at least suspecting), they had managed to keep themselves separate from any and all clan interactions.

"How come we never see your parents, or the other side of the family?" I asked slowly, as I turned to look through the album and found the first page dedicated to my parents' mating and subsequent marriage. I felt Mama stiffened, and instantly I knew I had asked the wrong question.

"I'm sorry, Mama-- I know you don't like to talk about it. I shouldn't have--" I began apologizing hastily, when she held up a hand, stopping my flow of words. My brothers had come in from the kitchen, stopping just behind the couch with plates and bowls of dinner.

"No, no, Desi Doo-- you're fine. It's-- its hard, but I can talk about it now. Especially with everything," She assured me, her voice hitching slightly. She looked at the final page that showed her family picture and the first picture of my parents together, just before they were mated for life. I noticed later that this was the final picture of my mother with her parents.

"Your grandfather-- my father --is a traditionalist. Though he and my mother both knew and believed in the existence of Lycans, he held to the old ways. Like Alpha Seamus and the Alphas of Old, he believed that humans could not and should not be mated to a superiorrace of beings," she admitted, her beautiful face twisting pain. "When your papa and I met, he knew and wanted to be with me, as I was with him. But the clan was still traditional in those days and my father went along with it. Just like the clan used to do, he did all he could to keep us apart. " Mama said, a sly smile on her face. That's when my brother Jensen spoke up, semi-ruining the moment.

"You guys still boned, though, right?" Jensen mused. Mama and I cringed and RJ growled at him. "Dude, show some damn respect-- that's mom and dad you're talking about! Gross!"

As we sat around the coffee table in the living room, laughing and looking through the photo albums, Mama and I looked at the photos from the wedding. To say it had been a grand affair would be an overstatement. Due to the secrecy and still traditionalist views of many clan members, their union had been a decidedly low budget affair. And yet, looking at the photos-- mama in her white wedding gown and my papa in his clean starched shirt and clan kilt, standing in the forest glen surrounded by close friends, supporting clan members --it was every bit as grand.

"Hopefully, my Desi, you can one day have the grand wedding I couldn't." She said warmly, hugging my shoulders and kissing my forehead as we gazed at the young couple's photo. They looked so young, so alive, and so in love I felt as though I was there to see it. My brothers both snorted in unison, ruining the sweet mother-daughter moment.

“Like anyone would want to marry her!" Jensen sneered, chomping down on a piece of garlic bread. RJ snorted, jostling his twin in agreement.

"Yeah, I mean, she's flat as a damn surfboard and has no good qualities!" He announced. I growled at him, feeling my beast begin to rise to the surface when Mama placed her hand over at mine, squeezing hard. It calmed me down, as did the small pouch at my side. I fingered it gingerly, feeling calmer as my beast fell back into slumber.

"I'm only fourteen, for goddess' sake! Besides, I am not ready to have a boyfriend-- or mate!" I snapped, my hand clutching the small pouch at my hip. My brothers snorted, rolling their eyes at my outburst.

"Yeah, yeah, whatever you say, little Miss Feminist!" RJ sneered, ignoring the warning looks both Mama and I were giving him. Mama spoke for me, insisting that it was all right to blossom when I was ready.

"It's bad enough I have to deal with you two and your mooning over your mates," Mama said, failing to notice the small pained look on RJ's face. I frowned at that-- surely RJ had found his mate? I opened my mouth to ask but she continued talking.

"But Desi is only fourteen, almost fifteen-- she still has high school to finish and maybe college, if God and the goddess deem it so," She said, winking conspiratorially at me. I smiled, then, my mind wandering back to conversations I had had with both of my parents.

Papa wanted me to finish high school, go on to college, and follow my dreams to travel the world. He knew a mate would hold me back. No matter how progressive this clan would become, a mate would never allow me to do what I wanted to do.

After the conversation Papa and I had when I was six, he presented me with agift. Both Mama and Papa thought it would be best if they both taught me how to have a dormant howl, like an insurance policy.

Inside the pouch are three different runes – all meant to balance my chakras, heart rate, blood pressure all of which control and suppress Corah from surfacing. Mannaz, Gebo, Othila, Uruz, and Algiz. In addition to these runes, Mama added an Obsidian stone and an Amethyst stone to protect me.

Carrying this pouch is like a second skin and when I feel it's time to meet my mate, all I have to do is stop carrying around the pouch. But of course that comes with consequences too. Removing my hand from the pouch, I return to the present as my mother vouches for me to my brothers and, in some small way, to me as well.

"There's nothing wrong with you, Desi-- you're still young and growing," she assured me calmly before turning a scornful gaze on my brothers. They both lost their humor and fidgeted uneasily, their ears reddening in embarrassment.

"Jensen, RJ-- apologize to your sister at once!" Mama snapped fiercely. They flinched at the tone in her voice and opened their mouth as though to apologize then, as if struck by something, snorted in derision. They both lifted their chins in defiance, a wicked humorous smirk mirrored on both of their faces.

"Why should we? We're just stating the truth," RJ insisted, moving off the couch and away from us. More likely, I thought, to get out of reach from being smacked by mother. Then Jensen spoke up, his words causing my blood to boil inside my veins.

"And besides, despite her training, she's absolutely useless to the clan-- I mean, she doesn't even have a damn beast, either! She might as well be just another useless human." Jensen said curtly. I leaned back against the couch, my cheeks burning as though I had been slapped as tears began to spring from my eyes. RJ simply gaped at Jensen, as though he had not expected that from him.

The air in the room suddenly grew stifling as the words just hung there and, when he looked at me and Mama, his face fell and his face grew hot. My mother's face grew pale with anger, her beast rising to the surface.

Mama had wanted to become a lycan after I was born because she didn't want my father to live one hundred plus years alone. A misconception is that we are immortal: we age, we get sick,we die. We just age slower and heal faster. But, there is a limit to one's abilities. It's not unheard of for a lycan to suffer from anything from dementia to HIV or AIDS and cancer. But, generally speaking, we have a longer lifespan and my mother didn't want my Papa to out live her.

I don't think she trusted him to not burn the house down cooking dinner. So, Papa created an offering to the Goddess and she granted it by rewarding her a beast named – Rubi.

And there she stood, in place of my mother's human form. She was smaller than most Lycan's due to her human side, but still a fearsome creature to behold. Rubi was amber in color, more baby fine fur lined her outer limbs and shoulders – where the rest of her flesh was a smooth amber hue. She was a true hybrid – not too human and not as beast like as my papa or brothers. Rubi's eyes were a deep cavern of molten dark chocolate. Which glowed crackling crimson when angered. Her claws extended and her eyes changed, Rubi taking her place in the conversation as her voice resounded sharply inside our heads like the clambering of thunder and lightning.

Remember she was human once, my son, and gladly gave that up to be with your father. I was given as a gift and I was happy to be mated to both Roland and Conon, as was your mother, Rubi muttered, her lips curling back to reveal jagged sharp teeth and her eyes flashed dangerously. Jensen and RJ both knelt, baring their necks and whimpering in submission to her. She snorted, looking back at me huddled on the couch when she spoke to us all, her voice softer and kinder.

There is nothing useless about being human and if that's what the goddess has deemed fit for your sister, then so be it. And if her beast comes, well then, we will see then and only when the goddess deems it so, she said, Rubi fading as Mama returned to herself and took control once more.

"We apologize, sis," my brothers said, their eyes downcast but their words strong. I nodded, still feeling dumbstruck. After that, my brothers gathered the dishes and began to clean up while Mama and I continued to talk and look through the albums. My brothers left soon after, eager to return to their training and, I think, slightly grossed out at the thought of listening to Mama talk about how she had had all of us.

"Are you sure you both can't stay the night?" Mama asked, walking the boys to the door. I listened partly, instead opting to look at more of the photo albums and baby books. I forgave my brothers' for their thoughtless words...why I hadn't found my mate, had my beast revealed, or any of the other things they deemed important to be a clan member...that was a secret, between me and my parents. How could they understand? And how would they be able to keep that secret?

"No, sorry Ma-- we gotta get back to training. It's important to keep up Dad's work," Jensen said, his motorbike creaking as he got onto it. Then there was another metallic creak, signaling RJ had gotten onto his bike.

"Besides, I have to go see Lennon about something," he admitted. My ears perked up, the twin's baby book in my hands briefly forgotten. Curious, I sat with bated breath as I waited for my brother to admit more or my mother to reveal something. She must know what was happening with him-- it couldn't just be dad's passing.

"I really wish there was something else, another way or--" Mama began. RJ's bike motor cut off her concerns with a loud grinding noise. I winced, unable to make out anything else he said. Then I turned back to the baby book and giggled at the sight of my older brothers, only a few months old and buck naked on a lamb rug. How I could not wait to meet their future mates and flash this flashy baby pic in front of their faces. Oh, future revenge-- how it would taste so sweet!

After being mated and wed, nine months later, mama had given birth to Jensen and RJ. I looked through their shared baby book and giggled at the ridiculous baby clothes and naked kitchen bath pictures. As I closed their book and began to put away the albums, I began to think about how far apart me and my siblings were in age. Though it was common to have children anywhere from maybe 1-3 years apart, I guess they paced themselves, because I arrived four years later.

I put the albums away, I noticed a small yellow baby book. I frowned, not recognizing it-- my brothers' was blue, mine was pink. Maybe it was one of my parents' baby books? Curious, I began to reach for it when Mama came back into the living room and cleared her throat. I turned, the book momentarily forgotten.

"Well, missy, as much as I enjoyed this walk down memory lane, I'd say you should head upstairs and work on whatever homework you have before getting to bed." She said, her shoulders sagging slightly. I opened my mouth, wanting to ask about what RJ had said regarding Lennon but stopped myself. I knew she didn't like Lennon and, even if she had, she would not reveal what was really happening with RJ. Instead, I said, "Yeah, I will. But I noticed something funny-- when I was putting away the albums, I noticed there was a yellow baby book. Was it yours or Papa's?"

As soon as the words left my mouth, Mama's entire body stiffened and her face-- I couldn't figure out what was wrong. She looked both sad and angry at once. Coming to stand beside me, she gave me a hug and ushered me to the stairs. "Get some work done, and don't stay up too late, Desdemona," she said, her voice tense. I flinched, not liking her tone of voice or how she had said my name. I opened my mouth to argue, but she spoke first, immediately halting my protest.

"Desi, I am really tired and we have both had a long day. Get some rest and forget about the book."

"But, Mama, I--"

"Good night, Desdemona," Mama said, planting a kiss on my cheek and shutting my bedroom door behind me. I sighed, my shoulders sagging. As I did my homework, I contemplated the yellow baby book and my mother's reaction. There was always this silent tension that came around within our household once a year. I only asked about it once and my mother's reaction was substantial enough where I never pushed it again. I just let her be when that time came. Then, as I got older, she became more of a hovering parent. I never understood why.

Unable to focus on my homework anymore, I look over at my desk clock and sigh. It's 10:45pm-- I need to sleep. I look down at my homework-- most of it is done, minus a few word problems for my advanced math class as well as a three paragraph essay on local religious history from the nearby Native American tribes-- all things I can do tomorrow morning on the way to school. I quickly doff my clothes and change into my pajamas before sliding into bed. I have an early day tomorrow...and I cannot miss an important meeting. I know she doesn't want me to meet with Lennon and, normally, I would do as she says...but this is too important. And if RJ can see him, then so can I.

Meeting Lennon Merrick

What I thought before he died to what happened after couldn't have been prevented. But looking back now, had we known the damage it could cause, I would have lived with the affects of having a mate bond.

At 4:00am, my bedside alarm went off, emitting a low little medley. I quickly slam my fist down on the alarm clock, ending the noise so mama doesn't hear it. Ever since Papa died and the meathead twins are mostly away at training, it has just been me and Mama inside the house. With everything going on, from running the ranch and her medicinal and herbal business, she has become a sound sleeper. She might be awake already, or sleeping in-- my mind races as I quickly move into action.

As I quickly get dressed and stuff my school and coursework into my backpack, my mind races and tries to recall what she has on the schedule today. She has a meeting with Mr. Newton to discuss how the gym is fairing and whether or not we should open another location within the territory as well as meet with the ranch foreman to discuss the sale of cattle-- both take place later today in the afternoon.

Hastily brushing my hair into a loose ponytail and stuffing my pre-made lunch-- PB and Banana with a side of carrot sticks and sliced apples as well as a pre-made breakfast of --I stuff everything into my bag and nearly rush out my bedroom door when I grab my talisman pouch off my nightstand and hastily attach it to the belt loop of my pants.

Looking down at my watch, I smile as I realize I have about fifteen minutes. Tiptoeing down the stairs, I allow my senses to work for me as I manage to sneak out the back of the house. As I approach the backdoor, I hear a loud thump from upstairs-- Mama is awake. Without waiting another moment, I open the door and quickly close it behind me just as I hear Mama call for me.

It's Friday morning-- she'll likely let me sleep. I wait a moment longer by the backdoor, listening. Then I hear it, the tell-tale signs of water running-- she's drawing up a bath. I smile, albeit nervously as I run off-- she'll be awhile. And when she comes to my room, she'll see a note I left:

"Went to visit Papa-- grabbed my homework and am meeting up early with my friends. See you later. Love, Desi"

Getting an early start, I headon foot to the outskirts of the clan territory. I've avoided this region of the forest since that day with Papa. The deeper you wanderinto the forest, the more haunted it became. As I wandered through the underbrush and kept my eyes and ears peeled for any intruders or rogues, I began to wonder if my brilliant plan had been so brilliant.

Lennon's cabin was as close as you could get to the border in the southern part of the territory. Go any further and you'd be captured for trespassing in another clan's region. I looked down at my wristwatch with it's built-in compass-- I had maybe another hour or so until I reached Lennon Merrick's cabin. I had snuck out of the house at 5:00am exactly, yet wondered if I should have left earlier. It would take two hours one way and I wanted to try and avoid running into any snitches. I continued on, my mind working and analyzing everything.

I didn't need to worry about Mama or having my secret found out-- at least I hoped not. I had left Mama a note-- she trusted me and would believe that I had gone to meet with my friends at Meri's Sweet Treats in town. She had both Daphne and Tameekah's numbers-- I had texted them about my plan last night. They would both cover for me, even if they didn't like or think highly of the Druid priest. And, if I was completely honest with myself, I was not one hundred percent sold on him or his apparent abilities either

Lennon Merrick is another purist that still remains in our clan. He's not a Lycanbut a Sorcerer who claims to communicate directly with Goddess Cerridwen. Him-- communing with a goddess. Can you blame me for being skeptical? Mama doesn't trust Lennon-- I overheard her and Papa talking once, one of the few heated discussions they ever had.

She and Papa always thought he was changing and not in the light. Ever since the pack lost Natalie, they were losing faith in Lennon. Mama didn't want me to see him, but he was literally the only one I could get answers from. With that thought, I moved forward and cleared the underbrush.

Looking around, I took in the surroundings and, closing my eyes briefly, took in a deep lungful of forest air. Yes, the woodsy musk was strong here. Opening my eyes, I began to move towards the path that would take me towards the cabin when the wind shifted. I momentarily froze as two familiar scents wafted beneath my nose.

"Fuck me," I quietly winced, ducking immediately behind a nearby fallen tree log as the nearby tree branches moved and the twigs on the forest floor creaked and snapped. Someone was coming, someone was coming, someone was COMING! My heart thudded with the implication-- I was going to get caught! My mind and my heart battled it out, logic trying to outpace fear as I attempted to calm down.

Perhaps I had been mistaken-- maybe it wasn't them, my head tried to reason. It was early-- too early to be out here. It was too early for mating season...I slowly inched down the border of the log, standing up inside the shadow of the trees as I tried to face reality, even if my heart did not want to.

Lowering myself into a crouch, I watched as they sauntered out of the forest and listened.

Besides being in all his naked glory, Tanner was sinfully disheveled. His hair flopping in shoulder length waves, cascading over his eyes. He glowed with a clear iridescence. My mouth suddenly felt as dry as the Sahara. Tanner is the epitome of a wolf in sheep's clothing. On the other hand, looking through the brush, Meri was nearly floating with pride – thinking she won a marathon or some prize.

As Meri shook the debris out of her hair, tousling her loose curls I slink further into the brush as it looks like she senses prying eyes. I'm not sure if she put on a show for me, but as soon as she jumped into Tanner's bare chest and arms, I hurled myself up off the ground and began to flee the scene. But as I prepared to take off before I could be noticed,

I quickly shielded my eyes from the heavenly view. Wait, a minute-- what? No, no way that that could be heavenly, not if he's been with STD Meri! I silently reasoned to myself. I slowly lowered my hand and watched the two of them, Meri moving to drape herself on Tanner's broad shoulders.

"I had a marvelous time," she cooed, flirtatiously running her hands through his hair. Tanner did not say anything, his eyes far away. Meri smiled then, a malevolent sickly sweet smile, as she leaned in and licked his neck.

"I hope we can meet like this again, very soon," she purred, eyes glittering. Tanner convulsed, his eyes shifting colors between his normal shade and that of his beast, Wren. He did not look at her, but he turned until they were facing one another-- her arms winding about his neck, his hands over her hips. I gulped as I watched, half mortified and half curious, as his fingers kneaded and digged into her hips as he drew her flush against him. Trying to not vomit all over the forest floor, I turned away and ducked behind the trees.

I hoped they didn't see me; goodness knows they couldn't smell me. Unable to help myself, I turned and looked from behind my hiding tree, noticing Tanner quickly and nonchalantly brush Meri off and directed her to go home.

"Don't you have school to get to?" Tanner said, his voice curiously strained. Meri pouted, but shrugged. She gave him a playful nip on his left earlobe before sauntering away, a delighted mysterious smile upon her lips.

"School-- ugh, so boring. So childish, compared to what we can do. I delight in learning under you...and on top of you," She said, her voice going husky as she shivered, though not from the cold. I looked down, then away, as I saw something on Tanner's body rise.

"Go home, Meri-- that's an order," Tanner bit out, no longer feeling playful. Meri did not say anything, but nodded and ran off through the trees. After standing in the small clearing for a moment, Tanner moved to leave. Sighing quietly, I turned to move through the trees and continue to Lennon's when I heard Meri speak.

"Oh, and good morning, Desdemona-- I'll look forward to seeing you at school." She cackled maliciously. Feeling ice crawl up my spine, I instantly tried to run when someone grabbed my arm and yanked me backwards, causing me to fall onto my butt.

"Where do you think you're off to at 5:00am?" Beta Tanner loomed over me, as if he had the right to intimidate me into submission. He may be the Beta in training, but he's not my father. Lifting myself off the forest floor and wiping off twigs and branches, I glared up at him. I knew I needed to tread carefully, but after seeing this a second time, I was fed up with his blatant misbehavior and flouting his relationship with Merigold Newton in front of my face. Again. Lifting my chin in defiance, I decided to tell him exactly what I thought of him as well as "authority."

"That doesn't concern you, BetaTanner." My eyes consciously rolled and my hands were placed on my hips in defiance. The veins in Tanner's jaw, throbbed, his teeth grinding dangerously. I knew I was on thin ice right now-- but then again, so was he. He was almost an adult-- Meri and I weren't even fifteen yet. Lycan or not, he had crossed the line-- big time.

"Don't you have something better to do like, I don't know, find a pair of legs to get between?" I paused, shifting my line of vision, watching two desperate hips sashay up the path towards the main field where changes of clothes were shed before a shift. It turned my attention back to Tanner, whose body was convulsing and eyes twitching. I should have stopped-- my inner danger sense should have warned me --but I wanted to taunt him, to hurt him. The exact same way he had hurt me. It was childish, but then again-- I was still technically a child.

"I'm disappointed in you, Beta-- going after underage girls. I didn't figure you for a pedo– "I was suddenly cut off when his two strong hands lifted me off my feet and my chest was pressed against his.

I could feel his warm but sweet breath in my face. It was almost like he was marking me without biting, but why? It's not like he likes me or anything...he then shook me until my teeth rattled.

"You will not show me such disrespect; you will submit to your Beta! And I have every right to question your comings and goings!" He snarled, his eyes shifting between anger and something else. Even as I struggled to get out of his death grip, I could not help but notice his eyes-- they were usually such lovely eyes. But now all I could see was anger, disgust, and... sorrow.

My brows furrowed as I glared daggers at this pompous ass. Who the fuck did this prick think he was to me? He had no right-- no right whatsoever to command me or even bend me to his whim. I didn't have time for this bullshit-- I had someone to meet and I was running out of time. I frantically tried to extricate myself and get out of his arms.

"Do you, now? And what makes you think so? Because of your role in the pack?" I scoffed at him. Tanner glowered at me, his arms winding tiger around me as my hands were nearly crushed between us. His skin felt warm-- unnaturally so, even for a Lycan. He growled then-- a menacing, almost predatory growl. I gulped, trying harder to extricate myself from his bone crushing hold on me.

"Nice try, b-but y-you don't get to boss me a-around." I grunted as I dug my naturally sharp nails into his chest. With a barely audible howl, his arms released me. He was forced to drop me on my backside, my pouch coming loose and skittering a few feet away from me. Horror washed over me-- he couldn't smell me, he couldn't, he couldn't! Not now-- not after everything Papa, Mama, and I had worked so hard for!

Distracted by the new cuts on his chest, I crawled hastily and grabbed at my pouch, stuffing it into my bra, as he turned to face me. A nasty sneer on his face, Tanner marched over to me and tried to scoop me up again. But laying flat on my back with him towering over me gave me a perfect opportunity. Raising my right leg, I kicked up in a swift motion-- right for his family runes.

As soon as my boot connected with his soft naked flesh, he knew I had won the moment. Poor Beta Tanner was outsmarted and out reflexed by me-- a small, meek child. Eyes widening in shock and hurt, he slumped over in obvious pain. Crouching low and cupping his wounded pride, I found my window of opportunity and an escape route.

Hoisting my backup onto my shoulder, I headed down the path into the deep, dark, dank forest. I tried to move as fast as I could, ducking under tree branches and over fallen boulders. I thought I was free, that he would be too wounded to follow me. After running what felt like hours, I stopped to look back-- Tanner was nowhere in sight. Just as I was about to step over a raised root, bare arms latched onto my waist and pulled me back. I knew who it was. I again struggled to gain my freedom, screaming and kicking and raising hell...

"Get the fuck off me, Tanner!" My legs swung, my neck flopped from side to side as my dark waves flew across my face.

"You will pay for that, little girl." He snarled low and velvety in my ear. I then felt a wetness brush against the rim down to the lobe of my ear. No... he couldn't have. Did he just...lick me?

No, no, no-- I need to get out of this. Abort, abort, abort-- run, little girl, R-RUN ...

His laughter was more a rumble. I felt his entire torso vibrate when he laughed. When I was younger and we had been closer, I found his laughter delightful-- even thrilling. Right now, standing with my back to him, all it did was terrify me.

"All in due time, my sweet Desi. All in due time," he purred, his arms winding around me and pinning my arms to my sides. His movements were still predatory, though his voice had softened slightly, as though he were trying to lull me into a sense of security. It almost worked, as my arms and legs slackened and I felt my head begin to droop against his chest.

"Now, tell me, where are you going?" He asked, shifting his body so my backside was pressed even more firmly against his front. Instantly, my body tensed, my sense of resolve coming back with a mighty roar in my ears.

"You are my m-" he began in a loud snarl when suddenly stopped speaking. Hell, I think he stopped breathing entirely. He placed me back down and I ran. I didn't look back. Expecting him to chase after me, but he didn't. When I felt like I was far enough away. I slowed down to a steady pace and continued on the path. In another twenty minutes, I finally stood at the great Lennon Merrick's cottage, ready to get answers--

From the looks, it did not appear to be anything special-- just a small one-story wood cabin with a chimney, a nearby outhouse to the right, a large generator and a small wooden shed to the left. If I had not known any better, I would have found the cabin and its location rather cozy.

The wind shifted and I smelled the air-- rotting bones, blood, and sulfur. I pushed down my gag reflex and took a step forwards. For a moment, I did not move: something held me to that spot. An invisible hand, fear of the unknown, or perhaps my own reasoning and logic. I knew as soon as I walked up to the cabin and knocked on the door, everything would change...somehow, some way, things would change.

But what if he gives you the answers you don't like or want?My conscience asked. I shook it off and took another step. I knew that I was risking something, but without no risk there is no reward. This is what I told myself as I took another step closer.

But what is your mother being right? You can't trust him. I closed my eyes and shook my head, willing my inner voice to shut up. I had to do this. There was no one else to help me. No more Papa, and Mama-- she couldn't help me anymore with this. I was on my own now.

Squaring my shoulders, I marched forward and, standing upon the threshold, moved to knock on the door. Before my knuckles could brush against the flaking wood, the door swung open on its creaky hinges to reveal the master of the house was home.

Lennon Merrick stood there, looking down at me on his doorstep. For a moment, we just stared at one another-- my blank fear meeting his indifferent face. Then, he smiled-- reminding me of a Cheshire cat. It made me shiver imperceptibly.

"Good morning, Desdemona Patchett. I have been expecting you. Why don't you come inside? I feel we have much we need to discuss."
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