After Layton left, I did some chores around the house. I was in the middle of washing the dishes when there was a knock on the door.
I opened it to find Zev standing there with a gift bag in his hands.
“Hey stranger,” Zev said, making his way inside the house.
“What’s the present for?” I asked.
He handed me the purple gift bag on the way to the living room.
“It’s a now you know what I am present,” Zev replied with a light chuckle.
“Oh, why thank you,” I replied, laughing at his casual expression. His reaction was definitely a stark contrast to how Layton had been when he’d arrived to see me the night before. While Zev looked calm, Layton had been worried.
I took the bag from him and opened it. His present was a black and red t-shirt that said in big bold letters:
BEWARE OF WEREWOLF
I cracked up at his sense of humor.
“Now you know our secret, might as well live up to the name,” he said, while I held up the shirt over me.
“Uh huh,” I muttered, rolling my eyes at him.
I placed the shirt in the bag and turned my attention back to Zev. I needed to find a way to start the conversation. I had questions and Zev had promised answers.
“I smell Layton’s scent around your house,” Zev said, scrunching up his nose.
“He was here earlier, but he left a while ago,” I told him.
“What did he tell you?”
“He told me not to talk to you,” I replied in a teasing tone. Zev laughed at my admission.
“He wouldn’t be Layton if he didn’t tell you that.”
“I know. He also told me what happened between you two.” I was staring at Zev, trying to catch any sign that would give away what he was thinking
“Layton told you his side of the story. It’s very different from what’s actually true.”
“Are you going to tell me your side?” I asked him.
In my heart, I knew everything had been a misunderstanding. Zev was a good guy. Layton just didn’t see that. All the history between them was interfering and blinding him. I couldn’t just ask Layton to forget about what had happened in the past—it wasn’t fair of me. But I felt like he and Zev really needed to sit down and talk.
“Did you believe him?” Zev was staring at me intently, waiting for my answer.
“I believe that Layton is still hurting from what happened between you guys. He thinks you’re guilty, and that still messes with him.”
“You believe me?” Zev asked, sounding hopeful.
“Uh…. Zev, you haven’t told me anything yet.” He laughed at my reply and rolled his eyes at me.
“That’s right. Well I guess starting from the beginning would be boring. You already know that Layton and I used to be best friends.”
“I think that’s what everyone has been telling me. It’s the only thing I knew for a while.”
“We both shifted around the same time in November. Honestly, some of the best times of my life were right after we changed for the first time. Layton and I used to go Wolf all the time and turn the house upside down. It would drive our parents crazy.”
Zev sounded like a hyper little kid talking about those days. He was grinning while remembering about the days when he and Layton had been friends.
“During that summer, we were holding pack meetings in the main house. Since Layton and I belonged to different packs and were both future Alphas, we couldn’t hang out a lot those days.”
“I still can’t believe you’re the next Alpha in line,” I told Zev. “Not that I know that means, exactly. But I find it really cool.”
“What, you don’t think I’d be a good Alpha?” Zev cocked an eyebrow and crossed his arms over his chest.
“You would make the best Alpha!” I replied.
“As I was saying, before I was rudely interrupted,” Zev said, teasing me. “We were in the middle of our pack meeting when we were attacked by Rogues. Things-“
“What’s a Rogue?” I interrupted.
“Rogues are Wolves that choose to be free. They don’t want to be tied down to a pack, or they simply wish to follow their own rules. Not all, but most Rogues, are trouble.”
“And your pack was attacked by Rogues?”
“Yeah, we were. Usually they come alone. But at times, a few of them get together and cause problems in packs. We are usually careful about that. However, in those days, we were too careless. Since we had ties with Blue Bloods Pack, that’s the name of Layton’s pack, we thought we were invincible.”
“What happened?” I asked softly.
“Some Rogues attacked us. They killed two pack members and they stole the mate of one of the Wolves they killed.”
“They stole a girl?”
What kind of creeps would do that? I hadn’t feared Werewolves until that moment.
“Yes, they did. John and his pack blame us for the attack because my cousin Liam was the one who did it. But Liam hadn’t been part of the pack for years.”
“Layton told me that Liam was part of your pack and that he was the reason they were sure it was you guys,” I agreed, remembering Layton’s words.
“That’s not true. Ryan, he’s Liam’s father, was a human. When Ryan mated with my aunt Janie, they had Liam. Werewolves are supposed to shift when they turn thirteen. Liam didn’t. When he didn’t change, Ryan lost it. He blamed himself, even though there was nothing wrong with not shifting.”
Zev had barely started explaining, and I was already sucked into the conversation. I wanted to know everything about Wolves. He was telling me so much about Werewolves. I was truly fascinated by it all. I still couldn’t explain how it was possible. I had lived all my life without ever stumbling into a Wolf.
“But wasn’t Liam a Wolf when he attacked? I mean if he’s a Rogue, he had to be, right?” I asked Zev.
“Liam ran away when he turned fifteen. Layton and I were eleven at the time. We didn’t really understand what was going on.”
“Oh wow,” I mumbled.
“Liam stopped belonging to the pack after that. He shifted for the first time when he was eighteen. Then he came back and attacked our pack along with four other Rogue Wolves. We were able to stop them before it got any worse, but they ran away,” Zev gravely replied.
“They went after Layton’s pack?” I asked, even though I already knew the answer to my question.
“We tried calling John to warn him about the attack. By the time he answered, his pack members were already dead. My father tried to explain what happened, but John and his pack only wanted a confession. They wanted for my dad to admit that we had attacked them.”
He stayed quiet and I hugged him, understanding how he must’ve felt through it all. It was worse because they were blamed for it.
“John told my dad that they had Liam’s scent on Blue Bloods land. He wanted for my father to personally go and confirm it. My dad was going to go, but the whole pack stopped him. With how angry John and his pack were, they would have wanted revenge. We couldn’t lose our Alpha, so we stopped him from going. Apparently, that was another sign that we were guilty.”
“Layton said something along those lines.”
“We gave up after that. We were also mourning the deaths of our pack members and the girl that had been kidnapped by the Rogues. What happened wasn’t easy for Liam’s parents either. No one blamed them because we all knew it wasn’t their fault. Liam was just angry that he had taken longer to shift and he thought we held that against him. But it wasn’t our fault either. If John and Layton couldn’t see that, then I guess they weren’t very good friends.”
“I wish I could make you feel better, but I don’t even know what to say.”
“I feel relieved by telling you,” Zev said.
I laughed and shoved him away. “Well I’m glad you told me. I wish I was more helpful though.”
“I think if you make me dinner I’ll feel a lot better.” Zev said.
I narrowed my eyes at him suspiciously. “Hmm… It sounds like extortion,” I told him, crossing my arms and tapping my foot on the floor.
Zev laughed at my words, and I was glad when the conversation drifted to a lighter topic.
We ended up in the kitchen. While I made fried chicken with mac and cheese, Zev told me what happened after I ditched him at the lake the previous day.
We were still eating in the kitchen island when I heard the front door close.
“It’s your parents,” Zev told me.
“How do you know?”
“I can smell their scent. And I can hear them talking about you,” Zev said with a glint in his eyes.
Soon enough, my mom made an appearance. Zev was sitting across from me, so I was hoping they would spare me from comments like the ones my mom had made the other day.
“Well hello,” my mom greeted.
She gave Zev an approving look, before turning to wink at me. Unfortunately, Zev had caught my mom’s suggestive wink and he was trying to hold in his laughter.
My mom couldn’t stop eyeing Zev, Zev kept trying to laugh, and they were both annoying me.
“Mom, you remember Zev,” I said, motioning towards him.
“Of course I remember. What have you kids been up too?” My mom asked, trying but failing to sound casual.
She walked towards the fridge and took out a bottle of water, before settling in one of the stools. My dad walked in at that moment. His smile morphed into a frown when he noticed Zev.
“Dad, this is my friend Zev,” I introduced.
“Hello Sir.” Zev got up to shake my dad’s hand, which my dad seemed reluctant to give.
He kept eyeing Zev suspiciously, without saying a word.
“Okay, well, we’re going to my room. We have a project and it’s not going to do itself.”
I grabbed Zev’s hand and began dragging him out of the kitchen. We were both more or less done eating, and anything beat having my dad and Zev in the same room.
On the way upstairs I heard my dad yell, “Keep the door open!”
I rolled my eyes at him, but my face warmed up at his insinuation. Zev laughed, while I scolded him for finding it humorous.