Footsteps startled me awake the next morning and the cold, hard floor left my back aching. I stood up and stretched, feeling a lot better than I felt yesterday.
My wolf was still sleepy in the back of my head. The events from yesterday evening left her drained and overwhelmed. It was a lot to take in, and I was glad she took the time she needed, and she trusted me enough to take care of us without her being alert at all times.
Suitcases were piled up around the room, and the kids shouted outside. Considering the noise, I was surprised I only woke up now.
Svea trotted into the living room, her eyes half-closed. When she spotted me, she walked over and licked my muzzle. I nudged her carefully, returning the kind gesture.
“Ah, you are awake,” Tyra said, entering the room and patting my head like I was her pet dog.
I growled at her, which only made her laugh. “Sorry, but you are too tempting not to pet. Your fur is so soft for an adult wolf.”
I huffed and shook myself, little hairs flying everywhere. I never completely grew out of my soft fur, and it only got slightly sturdier as I grew older. Most adult wolves didn’t have as soft of a fur as I had.
Gunnar walked into the room, his hair all over the place. “Good morning.”
He must have had a long night yesterday, but he seemed relaxed and happy, so nothing else must have happened during their celebration. He brushed a hand through his hair and smiled at me. “I already picked up your stuff from your bungalow and put it in the car. It’s cramped in the trunk now, though.”
He picked up another bag and gestured for me to follow him outside. The sun was still low, and a dense fog covered the forest floor around us. No other guests seemed to be ready to leave, and I wondered what time it was. Usually, it was pretty busy on days the visitors returned home.
Gunnar opened the trunk of a black SUV and pushed the bag inside. He patted the free spot next to all the bags and smiled. “This is going to be your spot.”
I wasn’t sure if he was joking, but when he added nothing more to his statement, I realized he must be serious. Did he really expect me to drive in the trunk, squeezed between bags?
“I’m sorry. We don’t have enough space in the front.”
I growled and jumped on the spot, trying to avoid hitting my head anywhere. I turned around and sat down, glaring at Gunnar.
His eyes sparkled with amusement. “You seem to fit right in! Anyway, I’m going to grab the last luggage, and we are going to be on our way.”
I watched him walk back to the house and wondered where in the world he planned to put the rest, hoping he didn’t want to squish even more luggage next to me.
The two siblings stormed out of the house, towards the car, laughter filling the air. I already imagined the grumpy guests who weren’t thrilled about the noise in the morning. For the first time since I quit, I was relieved it wouldn’t be my job anymore to listen to complaints.
The two children spotted me watching them, and they haltered, their laughter dying. The boy moved in front of his sister and held out his hands, slowly approaching me.
I laid down and waited, wondering why they appeared to be afraid of me. They must know who I was and must have seen me yesterday. Besides, I was sleeping in the same house the entire night. If I was a danger to them, I would probably choose a time when everyone was asleep to attack them. Now wasn’t the best timing, with their alpha close by.
The boy stopped one step away from me, his hand slightly shaking in front of him. I locked my eyes with his and lowered my head before crawling closer and sniffing his hand.
His scent was similar to Tyra’s, but still significantly different. He touched my nose, and I sneezed.
“Ew!” He exclaimed, wiping his hand on his shirt. I barked once and let my tongue hang out of my mouth.
The two of them laughed, not afraid of me anymore. Warmth settled in my stomach, seeing them so happy around me. It would have crushed me if I knew the two of them would be afraid of me. Not to mention how awkward it would be if I was supposed to live with them for an unspecific time.
“Alright, you two, let’s get into the car,” Gunnar said and they both nodded before rushing away.
I stared at the big suitcase he held in his hand and then back at him.
“This is the last one. I already spoke to Cedric and his wife. They will take the rest.”
I sighed and moved more out of the way, pressing into the side of the trunk uncomfortably. He pushed the suitcase next to me, trying to keep as much space as possible.
“It’s not a long drive. I hope you can manage.” He waited for a reaction from me, concern written all over his face. I nodded. It could be worse than this.
He closed the trunk, and I stared out of the window, suddenly feeling trapped. My wolf wanted out of here. She disliked the small space, without being able to move around freely.
“It’s going to be fine,” I said to her, even if I didn’t feel so great either.
We waited for Tyra and Svea to join us, and then we were on our way. While Gunnar drove through the park, I looked around, trying to take in as much as possible. I wanted to remember this place with no heavy feelings. I had a good time here, and I didn’t regret staying for as long as I did. My life with George was peaceful and if the circumstances had been different, we probably would have continued to have a wonderful time together. If his parents had accepted me.
My stomach dropped thinking about him, and it almost felt as if a hole was swallowing me. Everything changed so fast, and imagining not having him in my life anymore was painful. But I could only blame myself for what had happened, and I shouldn’t have tried to live as a human the way I did and let George close to me. If I hadn’t done that, he probably wouldn’t have suffered the way he did. We both wouldn’t have.
As if I had summoned him, I spotted him walking inside the park when we were about to exit. We were queuing behind several other cars, waiting for our turn to throw the house keys into the key box.
I stared at him, my heart racing. My wolf couldn’t care less, but my human side was still very much interested in him. He looked up and stared right back at me.
My breath hitched in my throat, worrying he would recognize me. His brows were furrowed as he stumbled to a stop. The dark circles under his eyes and greasy hair made him look like he hadn’t slept in days. His shoulders were slumped as he dragged himself into the park. He was suffering, and I couldn’t stop the whine bubbling up in my throat. The pain from the night I left him burned in my chest, making my stomach churn.
I struggled to turn around in the small space so I wouldn’t have to see him anymore. I caught Gunnar’s eyes in the rear mirror, concern written all over his face. He glanced out of the window, and when he looked in George’s direction, he sighed and drummed his fingers on the steering wheel.
Tyra turned around to look at me with a sad smile on her face, making me feel worse. It felt wrong to feel supported when I was the one who caused all of this. I dropped my head on top of the seat in front of me and closed my eyes.
Someone touched my head carefully, startling me. I opened my eyes, seeing the boy with the blonde curls look at me, his warm hand placed on my head. I sighed. Now, even children comforted me, but I allowed myself to be weak for a while longer.
As promised, the way to their house was fast. Gunnar stopped in front of a big, gorgeous farmhouse.
“It’s nice to be back,” he said, opening the door.
“Yeah, I’m glad we are back,” Tyra agreed, leaving the car as well. The kids didn’t hesitate long either, rushing out of the car as if their life depended on it. I was bouncing up and down on my spot, relieved I could finally get out of here.
“Don’t run too far!” Tyra shouted after the kids, shaking her head.
Gunnar laughed and let me out. “Welcome to our home. Make yourself comfortable.”
I felt out of place, but I still took the chance to look around. I followed the direction the children disappeared to, and it didn’t take long when I heard someone hurrying after me. When I turned around, I saw Svea trying to catch up to me. I stopped and waited for her.
Together we followed the path until an enormous garden spread out in front of us, which was hidden by the house before. Their property is ridiculously huge, and here I thought my family’s property was big.
The other two jumped around in the high grass. They had changed into their wolves and tried to catch each other.
I sat down and let the sun warm my fur, enjoying the scenery. My wolf enjoyed the peaceful atmosphere and fresh air, and for the first time since meeting Gunnar, a sense of peace rushed over me. But the calmness didn’t last long, as Svea had a different idea. She whined next to me and jumped up and down.
I planned to ignore her, but I gave up eventually and knocked her over with ease. I barked once, my tongue hanging out of my mouth. She quickly stood up and jumped at me. I let her bring me to the floor, inviting her to jump on me without mercy, enjoying our little banter, even when she hit my injuries with her tiny feet.
I got up and was about to chase her through the grass when a larger gray wolf tackled me from the side out of nowhere, knocking all air out of my lungs.
We crashed to the ground, and Svea yelped next to us. Panic rushed through me as if a bucket of ice cold water was emptied over me, fearing she was in danger. Immediately, I was back on my feet and jumped in front of her, planning to protect her from whoever attacked me.
I glared at the wolf and sniffed the air, freezing. This wasn’t an unknown wolf. It was Bertram.