The Wolf's Contract

All Rights Reserved ©

Chapter 4 - Madison

Turning the key in the lock, Maddie had an overwhelming sense of dread. Though she was sure part of it had to do with the meeting she had with Mr. Maxwell in a few hours, she knew that the biggest reason was in knowing that Lupe was not himself. Even now, he was at the vet’s while Carl examined him to determine what ailed him.

Her family had used Carl as their vet for over a decade now, and her father had made her promise to continue to use him when Maddie took Lupe as her own. She understood his need to protect Lupe, and she knew how much he loved her when he parted with Lupe to give her a companion when she went through her ugly divorce.

The young, battered woman that he provided refuge from brought her son and an injured wolf pup. It was the first time that Carl ever made a house call, and it would not be his last. Lupe had sustained some pretty severe bruising and cuts all over his poor body, and Maddie had tried to help nurse him back to health while her parents focused on getting help for the mother and son.

Maddie never had a chance to meet the woman’s son as, within a matter of days, the mother sent her son away to stay with distant relatives, her own wounds too severe to make the journey with him. Though her father asked if she wanted to send the pup with her son, she was insistent that it would be dangerous for her son. Maddie wished she could say she was disappointed, but she had fallen in love with the little pup, and his owner seemed pleased about it.

Though Maddie never really got to know the mother and the son, her heart went out to them for what they endured. Her father never really shared exactly what happened to her, but the wounds inflicted on her, the anxiety she was suffering, and the fact that she ran away from her home and possibly her husband spoke volumes to her. Having them in her parents’ home, and spending time with the little pup started to plant the seed and force her to look at herself. It made all the things happening in her own life start to pop with significance. The fact that her husband at the time barely allowed her the time to go and care for the injured pup was one of those significant pops.

That is when she took up running as a hobby. It was an easy excuse, and it gave her a chance to get Lupe out of the house and let him stretch his legs. To say her father was a little hesitant to let the little pup out of his sight would be a bit of a stretch. The whole reason she started using the park on the edge of town was that few people bothered to frequent the place, and because it gave her father pause on his stand on not letting the little thing out of the house.

As Lupe was a wolf pup, she supposed she understood why he was a little leery. The fact that he was a white wolf pup was uncommon. She imagined that maybe he was a scarce breed, and had wondered how the woman had come across the little thing.

Her father had tried to get the woman to go to the hospital, begged her. The wounds were not healing properly, and the doctors that came to the house did everything they could to help her mend. Their efforts were in vain, and no matter how much her parents had pleaded, the woman refused.

When the woman finally succumbed to her wounds, Lupe seemed to be too aware. His little fur body barely moved from her side that day, and Maddie had left him alone to mourn his owner. After two weeks, Maddie became concerned when he was still lethargic and despondent.

The door slid open, and Maddie walked into the bar. Lupe had been with her for more than four years now and had managed to make a full recovery. Until today, she only took him in for annual checkups. She gave him and his family credit for finally finding the nerve to leave her ex, and she could not imagine a more fulfilling life than the one she shared with Lupe and Xander.

These small little bumps in the road like today’s meeting add a little more stress to her life than would otherwise exist. At the end of the day, she went home to her roommates and was able to find her center once more. Once this mess was cleared up, she would seek refuge in her friends’ company...she only hoped Lupe would be more like himself.

Moving across the room, she stepped neatly behind the bar, ducking under the access door. She knew the bartender, Jacques, had probably already z’d out all the ancient registers that the bar still had, but she checked them both to make certain. Jacques was the most reliable man she had known when it came to business matters, and she was grateful for him as an employee when he and his friend walked in five months ago to answer her ad.

His friend, Conner, was both bouncer and bartender. They were both friendly enough, but she was not sure whether to share her vision of the place with them. They both seemed comfortable in running it the way it was, which made her worry that telling them about her plans would make them a bit leery. When they were curious enough to ask, she just told them that there were no immediate plans to change the place. She figured that, when it was time, she may have a better feel for them and could make them feel more comfortable about the direction the bar would head in.

As usual, Jacques took care of the tapes, and she had no doubt they would be sitting on her desk waiting for her to enter them. She ducked beneath the partition in the bar and walked to the rear of the bar where her small office would be. The door was open, and she saw the tapes on her desk as soon as she entered. Smiling, she sent up yet another thank you to that higher authority that deemed it necessary to send those two men to her.

Rounding her desk to sit in the swivel chair behind it, she touched the picture frames on her desk lovingly with gentle fingertips. One was of her and her father on one of their many fishing trips before he passed away. It was one of the last ones they shared together, and she had treasured that memory with him. That particular one had been after her divorce, and they spent a whole week commemorating that moment.

Those bittersweet memories that she held onto seemed like decades ago, yet it was only a few years ago. On that particular trip, he had been a bit preoccupied, as though there was some dilemma he had been trying to ponder while putting on the facade of being a doting father. It was in the small details that she saw it, like the deepening crease along his forehead and the tight set of his jaw when he thought she wasn't looking. Even in the picture, she could see that his face was slightly more pinched than normal. It was subtle, but it was there.

Though she had thought of asking him what was troubling him, she reminded herself he had wanted this trip in celebration of her divorce. Maybe it was possible that his mood was soured over the thoughts of her ex. He certainly was a man worth any ill thoughts her father might have had for him.

Either way, he had given her a token to remember the occassion by. He had given her a dogtag with her name on it that she kept tucked away beneath her clothes at all times. Her father had told her that, by enduring a marriage with her abusive ex, she had served an unfortunate tour of duty and deserved to be recognized with a dogtag of her own. Maddie wore it proudly alongside the one that she was presented when he passed away, but mostly in honor of her father.

The General had also given her a dog tag for Lupe, but that was for a whole other reason. He had sternly told her that she needed to be sure she kept legal tags on Lupe so that, if he went missing, she would still be able to find him. The claim he made about poachers stealing rare breeds like him had her keeping very close tabs on her dear friend. However, it didn't hurt that he placed a tracker on that same collar he had given her.

The other picture on her desk was of her and her mother. They both wore huge smiles as they each held a key that would unlock their new business venture together. When she first took the idea of buying the bar to her mother, she was very hesitant. The bar had a bad reputation, and worse...horrible memories that haunted both of their nightmares.

“Maddie, I just can’t.” Deborah Garrett was quiet, her words nearly catching on a sob.

“Mom, this isn’t about harboring bad memories. It is about letting go of the bad in our lives, and turning them into something good.” Her own eyes had welled with tears, and she wiped at them furiously with her sleeve. This was about her father’s memory, and his name. “How could I turn a blind eye to that place when we can make a difference. Turn it into something that would honor his memory. Don’t you think it is what dad would want us to do?”

After they had shared a few more sobs, her mother had agreed. The changes that Maddie had shared made her crack a whimsical smile, and it made her more determined to buy that blasted place and make it everything she thought it could be. She wanted it...needed it. For her, her mother, and her father.

Dropping into her seat and picking up the register tapes, she started to eyeball the bottom line. She opened the lid to her laptop, and she clicked a few buttons to open up the business spreadsheet she used to keep track of all the bar’s finances. As she waited for the spreadsheet to open, she glanced around her office. The empty dog bed made her face pinched, and her shoulders sag. Maybe soon she would get some news about Lupe’s health.

Returning her attention to the tapes still in her hands, she picked up a highlighter to mark those important lines that would need to be entered. The business did well enough, though the clientele was a little less than desirable. Already, she had to sink profits back into the business to make premature repairs from the unruly regulars. However, until she could make the changes that she wanted to with the bar and the property, her hands were tied with maintaining the status quo.

Because her bar was beyond the outskirts of town, it meant that only county and state law would apply out here, and sometimes county could not be bothered. More lenience was given to the type of disturbances that these people made due to the distance it was from the city. It also meant that a rougher crowd liked to hang here. Much like their personalities, they were always just on the edge.

During her short time here, she had met some friendly enough characters. A few of them she believed to be bounty hunters would come in and order beers and sometimes even food while they sat in small groups discussing the contents of files that they brought with them, using their cells, or looking through the newspapers. Generally, she felt a little more relieved when they were there as it seemed to keep some of the ruckuses down when they were around. When they came in, the room always felt a little tamer, and maybe even a little tenser. Either way, she appreciated having that little added bit of crowd control that they offered, and she would have Jacques provide a round of drinks as appreciation from time to time. Although Jacques did not much care for the idea of it, she thought it was a small token that they seemed to appreciate.

One, in particular, had been trying to wear her down. Chris Renoir clearly enjoyed the hunt, and even reveled in it. She always thought that if she caved and gave him a date, maybe even a roll in the hay, he would lose interest in her. At one point, she actually thought about it, wondering if maybe that would help to sweep out the cobwebs that seemed to have settled in since her divorce. It was not like she was getting any younger, and there were not very many dateable men in her life on any consistent basis. He was about as close as it got. In the end, she just could not bring herself to give it away like that.

Of course, wasn’t that what she almost did last night, give it away? The tingle in her gut returned, and the flush started to creep into her skin. Lyander had such a strong and immediate effect on her that swept over her so suddenly, and Chris could not compare to that. She let her tongue peek out from between slightly parted lips and let them slide across, giving them moisture when they felt barren.

“Ah, but to know what is in your head that caused that reaction, cherie.”

Startled from her tapes, spreadsheet, and thoughts, she jolted abruptly against the desk. The picture of her and her father fell face down on the desk with a quiet clank as she looked up to see Chris leaning his massive six-foot-three frame against her office door. Speak of the devil.

“Oh, hi there! I did not hear you come in.”

There was a long, nearly inquisitive smile that stretch across his face. “Penny for those thoughts.” His tone was sensual, and Maddie became very aware of her surroundings. Her father’s training makes her gauge the situation and her escape route if needed.

Letting her head drop to reading her tapes once more, she hoped it would express her disinterest. “Yeah, don’t think you really wanna hear about my bookkeeping dilemmas.” She highlighted an error she found on one of the tapes before picking her head up to look him straight in the eye. “How can I help you, Mr. Renoir?”

“Ah, cherie, call me Chris.” The muscles in his biceps nearly jumped as he said it, and he took in a long, casual perusal of her entire being. It made her feel uncomfortable, but she refused to show any signs of it.

Shrugging off the sensation of being sized up like a rancher would a horse, she said, “Yes, well, thank you, but it still does not tell me why you are here.” Her staff would not come on duty for a couple more hours when they came in to prep before opening, so having him show up while the bar was closed made her a bit uncomfortable. She tried her best to offer a friendly smile, but she was not sure how well it came off.

The tattoos on his biceps twitched, and the black t-shirt nearly rippled underneath from his pectorals. Dark hair fell to his shoulders and matched the shade of that closely cut beard and mustache that he sported. His liquid brown eyes complimented his dark complexion and his rugged good looks, but there was always something hidden there that made Maddie a little antsy. He reminded her of a cat stalking his prey.

In one fluid motion, he moved his frame from the door jamb and stood straight. It only took a couple of strides until he made it to her desk, where he perched on the corner closest to her. She quirked an eyebrow at him in askance, and he smiled broadly. Placing both of his hands on one thigh, he leaned in towards her. “I was simply hoping that we could finally have that drink.”

“In case you have not noticed,” she grimaced and cast a quick glance to the space beyond her office to assert her meaning, “the bar is closed.”

If he was not as smooth as a cat. He leered at her with that sensual curve to his lips that most women might swoon for. “Could not have planned it better. Gives us a chance to enjoy each other’s company.” Between his look and his words, there was no mistaking what he was looking for.

The long sigh was there before she could stop it, assuming she actually wanted to. “Look...Chris. I like you, I think you’re a good guy. But, I just don’t have the time to invest in anything other than the bar right now. It is not that I do not appreciate the offer…”

Chris shifted his weight on the desk and moved his hand to her arm where he let his fingers run down the length of it to grasp her hand. He let his thumb run across the smooth skin at the top of her hand. “You won’t need to invest a lot of time with me, cherie. Just on occasion. When I am here on business.” He lifted her hand to his lips and grazed them across the tips of her fingers.

His touch was confusing to her, but his words slammed into her and she removed her hand from his grasp. Letting the tape she held drop to the desk, she shoved a dark strand of her hair behind her ear. The silken mass gently waved across her back as she shook her head. “Actually, I don’t have booty calls with men. So, what you are implying is not an option.” Standing from her desk, she let the tips of her fingers remain on the desk. Something about letting them remain on a smooth, sturdy frame allowed her to feed on its strength, even if it was only in her mind.

“Ah, cherie, I meant no offense!” His words were practiced. A little too silky smooth for her tastes, and she imagined it was crafted out of necessity for his profession.

“As long as we are clear where I stand on the matter.” Her smile was a little tight, and very forced. But, he was part of her clientele, and she could not run off every man or woman that paid her even a little attention.

It was not that she was model gorgeous, but combine her emerald green eyes with her lustrous dark locks, and she made for a presence when she walked into a room. Though she knew she drew attention easily to herself, she always believed it was more due to her curves than her appearance.

Picking up a stack of papers off her desk, she willed it to shield her from any further advances from this man. “Will we be expecting you for dinner tonight? If so, I can be sure that your favorite table is available?” She wanted to be certain there was no mistake as to her position on his advances, and she moved towards her office door to show him out.

When she moved past him, he deftly grabbed her upper arm and pulled her to face him as he swung himself towards her on the desk. It was a gentle enough touch, one meant to be enticing. “Will you be joining me?” It was almost a purr.

She gave a sharp glance to where his hand rested on her arm, and she stepped back from him. “You have plenty enough company without me crowding in.” Alluding to the papers in her arm, she continued. “You will have to excuse me, there are things I need to attend to. Shall I show you out?”

The hand that was on her upper arm slid down her arm once again in that sensual way that he had about him. “There is always room at my table for you, cherie.” He stood from his perch and closed the gap between the two of them.

“Get your hands off her!” Each word was enunciated slowly, with a warning growl accentuating each word. Alarmed, Maddie tried twisting to face the door, but Chris’ grip intensified.

“Well, well. Look what the cat dragged in.” Chris refused to let his grip slip, and Maddie bent her head so she could see who else had entered her sanctum. Lyander!

The growl intensified causing Maddie’s eyes to grow large. “Get your hands off her!” The words were repeated once more, sounding even more menacing. That strange tingle ran up her spine at his words, and the warmth in her gut returned. It was like the words themselves resonated deep within her, or maybe it was the timbre of his growl. It was ominous, and yet it still had an effect on her. What was she, a masochist?

Pulling herself together, she cleared her throat. There was no way she was about to let these two meatheads come to blows in her office. Moving a step or two back, Maddie disentangled Chris’ hand from her arm. “Thank you for stopping by...Chris. Now, if you two can refrain from filling my office with an exorbitant amount of testosterone, I have work to do.” Clutching the papers to her chest, she lifted a hand toward the door. She waited for the two men to collect themselves and leave, but she was still reeling from the fact that Lyander was even here. How did he find her? She did not give him her name.

“See you later...mate.” Chris’ shoulder collided with Lyander's as he spoke the last word. “And, cherie, I look forward to that drink...soon.” His last words were tossed over his shoulder, not up for comment, but an insult.

A growl ripped through Lyander the likes of which Maddie had never heard, and Chris’ laugh was deep and sinister as he strolled out of the bar. A gentleman appeared in front of Lyander with a hand firmly planted on his chest. He said something in a language she did not understand, and Lyander calmed. But there was something ready to pounce just below his skin, and it was dangerous.

Continue Reading

About Us

Inkitt is the world’s first reader-powered publisher, providing a platform to discover hidden talents and turn them into globally successful authors. Write captivating stories, read enchanting novels, and we’ll publish the books our readers love most on our sister app, GALATEA and other formats.