They stopped a few feet away from me. Bertram stood slightly in front of the other three men, a smirk on his face. “Look who is here.”
My wolf growled inside me, edging me to be proactive and show him we are stronger than he thought we were. “We are only guests. I know he is rude and disrespectful, but we should be the bigger person here.”
She didn’t agree with me, but returned to the back of my mind, trusting I would take care of the situation appropriately.
“It’s so nice to see you again, Bertram. What would I do with myself if I wouldn’t be able to see you every day?”
His left eye twitched, and a frown spread over his face. “Are you here to spy on the property? Trying to find the right place to invade us?”
I rolled my eyes. “Do you even listen to yourself? How should I invade you? With my imaginary wolf pack? Are you watching too many movies? Because it clearly does weird things to your imagination.”
He stepped forward, rolling back his shoulders. “Everything just works out so well for you. First, you wrapped the alpha and his sister around your little finger, followed by the beta and his wife. Then you got offered a room in the alpha’s house, and they even let you roam around freely. Traitors like you should be confined somewhere, so they won’t destroy another pack!”
My wolf pushed forward, but I prevented her from taking over. I clenched my teeth and took a few deep breaths through my nose. When my wolf settled down, I focused back on Bertram. “How often do I need to repeat myself? I’m all alone. There is no one out there who could help me destroy your pack. I’m not stupid enough to attack a huge pack like this alone, and I have no reason to either.”
“Which makes you even more dangerous. People who lost everything have nothing to lose anymore. Maybe you are jealous because we have what you want, or you’re simply evil. I wouldn’t know, as I’m not the traitor here.”
I balled my hands into fists, a growl bubbling up in my throat. My wolf’s anger mixed with mine, and it was getting harder and harder to hold her back. “Stop calling me a traitor! You do not know what happened that day! You weren’t there. All you do is spout nonsense, and you don’t even have a reason to. For the record: I don’t want to hurt your pack.”
He shook his head. “Your lies won’t work with me. You are dangerous!”
My willpower wasn’t strong enough to hold my wolf back any longer. She burst through the barrier I built and pushed me farther back into a corner, taking over.
The group took a few steps back, surprised by the sudden change.
“Don’t do anything reckless! If we hurt them, we will prove them right,” I said. My wolf growled. She wanted to teach Bertram a lesson, but she didn’t want to risk provoking him further either.
He smirked. “You can’t even control your wolf. That alone is dangerous enough.”
Another growl echoed through the forest, anger racing through my veins. It bothered me that he was right. If I wasn’t able to control my wolf under all circumstances, I could be a danger. But my wolf wasn’t to blame for this situation. Her need to take over proves that she can’t trust me. I was lacking in leadership, which made it hurt even more.
“How about we do something fun and prove once and for all that you don’t belong here?” Bertram crossed his arms and grinned at me. “As a protector of the pack, I challenge you. If I win, you will leave this and never come back. Should you win, I won’t bother you anymore. For now.”
My wolf itched to accept the challenge, but I pushed against her. We will be away from here soon anyway, and this deal would only bring us into more trouble. He wants me to act recklessly and to attack him as a guest would be. Challenge or not.
“Are you a little scaredy-cat? Of course, you are. That’s what traitors are.”
My body moved on its own, jumping forward and biting the air. The group stumbled backward, the men in the back eyeing me with wide eyes. I sniffed the air, and the sour scent of fear hit my nose. They must be omegas and probably would like to be anywhere but here right now.
“So, it’s a yes?” Bertram asked, a disgusting grin still plastered on his face as he flexed his fingers.
“This is a bad idea. We can’t accept the challenge, and you know it. He wants to get a reaction, and you are playing right into his cards. This is not worth the trouble.”
My wolf felt torn. She wanted to accept the challenge to prove to the delta boy he wasn’t as strong as he thought he was, but she also knew I was right.
“Come on, let’s leave. We are better than this.”
She gritted her teeth as she handed back the control. I turned around and sprinted towards the house, leaving laughter behind me.
I was halfway through the field when Gunnar stepped in my way.
“Bertram!” He roared so loudly that probably even the next village heard him.
I glanced behind me, seeing the omegas falling to their knees, their heads hanging low, and Bertram’s face turned white as a sheet.
Gunnar looked at me, a tight smile on his face, but his eyes were hard and cold. My stomach dropped as I sat down beside him.
In the distance, the group of men slowly made their way towards us, their gaze locked on the ground.
“He will be the death of me at some point,” Gunnar muttered.
“It’s not what it seemed like!” Bertram said when he reached us.
“Are you stupid? How often do I have to tell you to leave Amalia alone? Am I speaking backward, or do you just refuse to follow my orders?”
“We only joked around a bit,” Bertram said, glancing at me. “Right?”
I huffed. What on earth was he plotting? He didn’t expect that I would come to his rescue with some lame excuse now, did he?
Gunnar crossed his arms. “A joke? I love jokes. Do tell me. What was the joke about? I’m very curious.”
Bertram stayed quiet, his lips pressed together in a tight line, looking anywhere but at Gunnar.
“Dylan! What was the joke about?”
The man winced. “It was about a challenge.”
“A challenge? Tell me more.”
“To leave here,” he squeaked.
Gunnar took a deep breath before he snapped his gaze back to Bertram. “Change!”
Bertram transformed into his wolf, a strained whine leaving his throat. White light surrounded Gunnar as he changed as well.
“If you want a challenge, I will give you a challenge. The joke would be even funnier then, don’t you think?”
I gulped, taking in the scene in front of me. This took an unexpected turn. My wolf loved seeing it, but I didn’t feel too great about it.
“Alpha, please. Do we have to go this far?”
“So now I’m your alpha, but when I tell you to leave my guest alone, you don’t listen to me.”
Bertram cowered on the floor. “We only wanted to tease her a bit, nothing more.”
“Get up! You wanted a challenge, so you are getting one.”
Bertram trembled as he stood up. I had to give it to him. I didn’t expect he would be brave enough to face Gunnar.
Gunnar didn’t give him much more time to prepare, as he jumped at him with a roar. The smaller wolf rolled to the side, barely avoiding the attack. Gunnar whirled around and jumped again, pushing him to the ground. Bertram hurried back to his feet, but got bitten in his leg. He whined, limping away. Gunnar watched him, slowly following him, as he bled onto the ground.
Bertram stumbled and fell, his body trembling, as he stared up at Gunnar.
Gunnar stopped, hovering over him. “This was the last straw. I’m revoking your position as a pack protector. You don’t have what it takes to judge real danger. If you step out of line one more time, I will kick you and your parents out of the pack.”
He changed back and turned to the other men. “And you better don’t try anything funny yourself. Let this be a lesson for you, too.”
They nodded and hurried away, leaving Bertram behind.
He turned his attention back to Bertram, who curled into a ball and whined quietly. “Cedric will be here soon. Stay here and wait for him.”
“Come,” he said to me and moved back to the house, expecting me to follow him. I glanced back one more time, my stomach feeling heavy, seeing Bertram left alone in the field. My wolf expected to have a sweet taste of victory, too, but instead, it was a bitter one.
When we reached the house, he stopped, his eyes still hard and distant.
“I know you can’t help it, and you are still new to all of this again, but please try to stay in control better. It was the right decision to move away from the situation, but it shouldn’t have come to this. I’m not always around to save you.”
I stared at him, his words feeling like a slap in the face. It’s not that I wanted a knight in shining armor defending me, and neither did I expect him to. But I disappointed him, making me feel like a failure.
“Don’t take this the wrong way. It’s also my fault for not keeping them in check. That’s probably what I’m mostly angry about. Your appearance made me see the flaws in my pack and myself as an alpha.”
I gritted my teeth, frustrated I couldn’t give him a piece of my mind, my wolf refusing to give me back my human form.
Gunnar sighed. “Try to stay out of trouble for a bit.”
He moved past me and back to his smithy. I stared after him with rage brewing in my stomach. Why would he say something like that? He almost made it seem as if it was my fault that Bertram had a problem with me. All I did was go for a walk.
I went back to my sleeping place in the barn and rolled into a ball. Why can’t I just go back home? They couldn’t force me to stay here, and yet I was listening to them. In the end, I probably didn’t want to be alone during this change in my life, but maybe it would be better if I was.
I heard someone entering, but I didn’t bother to see who it was. With my luck, it might be someone else who wants to argue with me.