Chapter 2 - Roomies
Jonathan felt warm. Cozy. That immediately awoke his senses.
He was never cozy!
He heard the light footsteps coming closer and immediately leaped, topping off the intruder. The snarl that erupted from deep within his chest was malicious enough to warn anyone off. The insolent fool stood no chance against him. It was only a matter of time before the raw power registered inside the thick head of the pest that was about to start squirming underneath him.
Jon shook his head, realizing that the pest had long red hair and felt tiny under his torso. The gentle fingers that brushed passed his pelt finally managed to tame the tousled hair and to unveil the feminine features of a porcelain doll’s face – earthy colored eyes, straight nose, perky lips that surprisingly curled in disgust as she rubbed his drool off her cheek, muttering:
“Get off me!” She frowned and pushed against his chest that was still vibrating from the menacing snarl.
Jonathan reluctantly stepped away from her, still stunned at his discovery. He was in a cabin of sorts that clearly smelled like the red-haired woman if front of him.
But where exactly was it located?
Before he could even register the movement, she scooted away from him, her eyes trailing down to the mess on his left. His nose picked up the mouth watering scent off the sandwich and he licked his lips in anticipation, realizing that she must have brought it for him. His eyes snapped right at her only to be met with the uproar:
“That’s it!” Her anger exploded, “You made the mess, and you better fix it before I come out of the bathroom, or else mister, injured or not, I am going to throw you the hell out of here! I would not even share a minute feeling guilty over your bony ass freezing to a popsicle outside!”
She ungracefully stood up, walking further inside the cabin. Jonathan was left stunned staring at her back. If he were in his human form, he knew his jaw would be hanging open.
What had just happened?
He shook his head deciding he will tackle one mystery at a time and concentrated his attention to the sandwich that she had brought him. It looked more appetizing by each second that passed. He gulped it down quickly, pondering on what little information there was that his hostess had provided willingly.
Her words replied in his mind, “Throw you the hell out of here…”
She must own this place.
But where was he?
He heard a door closing and scattered to assume a dominant stand. As her slender figure appeared from the hallway, he snarled at her.
“Woah, hold on those growls there, buddy!” The female voice sounded stern but friendly, as she lifted her hands in surrender. He lowered himself to the ground, shifting to an even more secure stand and growled even louder at her.
That would teach her!
So where was he?
The she-wolf, as her scent finally registered in his sluggish mind, quickly recognized the source of his agitation and proceeded to explain at her own accord.
“I took you in as you weren’t faring well. I’m Avery and this is my place”, she shortly explained.
Jon snarled at the implication that he wasn’t in good shape. That irritated him to no end! Who did she think she was to judge him? Him of all people?
He definitely didn’t need any help. And even if he did need help, he would not accept it from a complete stranger that didn’t know shit about his tortured existence.
She continued in a calm voice, “I understand it’s a bit unorthodox but I assure you I won’t bloody murder you in your sleep, so chill. Plus, if I couldn’t leave you out in the cold with the winter storm warnings and all, then …”.
Jonathan decided that she talked too much and shifted his gaze to the window, hopping onto the couch to investigate on his own. She definitely needed to practice reports – precise, concise and void of emotions. That’s how he liked them.
“…hey, I am talking to you!” The needy she-wolf squeaked.
Yip, she was definitely irritable little thing that thought she could insult him. HIM - the reigning Monarch, because of a little snow!
How dare she!
On second thought, he did leave Nessa in charge of the Monarchy, with the full confidence that her mate, Marcus, was a proper choice for an interim Monarch. Jonathan shouldn’t blame the uninformed she-wolf in front of him for not recognizing him right away. Marcus must have done a good job keeping Jon’s Monarchy in check if they were not proactively searching for him. Who else but Alpha Marcus would understand the need of some alone time away from everyone?
And that included an escape, even from his beloved but nosy cousin Vanessa Heinsfeld!
After the first run-ins with Pack Law and Royal Guards, Marcus had finally gotten the message and called the hunt for the berserk Monarch off. Jonathan was not a betting man, but he was ready to raise the stake with his estate that Nessa was the sole culprit behind the search parties that he had spent time avoiding or roughly persuading that it was in their best interest to let him be.
Was that too much to ask for?
He hadn’t abandoned the Monarchy. He left them in good hands and this was just a mere well-deserved holiday to clear his head.
But that did not matter in the current situation.
The she-wolf’s offense was not getting any smaller by the admittance that she didn’t know who she had taken in.
Jon was pissed. The moment, he jumped onto the couch, he stared out of the window.
If his eyes were not mistaken, and that was highly unlikely to be the case, the winter storm had gone up and beyond. They were snowed in with over four feet of snow – just enough to reach above his human mid thigh. And Jonathan prided himself of his tall stature!
Damn! Maybe it was not such a bad idea that the presumptuous she-wolf had taken him in. Surviving out there would have been tough, especially now when Jon could hardly remember when the last time was that he had hunted or eaten. Staying in wolf’s form for too long could do that to a man. Slowly, but steadily, one would lose track of time… and eventually lose himself into the wild beast that lived inside.
Even though it was apparent that she did him a favor, he felt rattled by her mere presence.
He didn’t need to be rescued by a she-wolf.
He was not a damn puppy to be rescued!!
Though his inner self could not deny the gratitude he felt. After all, it wasn’t bad to sit indoors and wait the snow to melt before he took his leave.
A lone wolf.
Yes, that’s what his whole existence came down to.
Of course, now that he was staying in the cabin, he had to come up with a way to make the rants coming from that annoying she-wolf cease. That was a challenge not even worth considering! Jonathan Graves had been the second in command of an entire Battalion. He had commanded and assumed responsibility of thousands of soldiers! He could surely handle a mere she-wolf, even if she had proven to be the stupidest wolf in the radius of miles!
Who except her was dumb enough to take in a stray?
Not that he was complaining… After all, his fur was dry and warm.
But still…. he could be a murderer or even a rapist, for all she knew!
Then there was the matter of the major snow storm that he conveniently slept through. How was that even possible? He had to be out for hours for the snow to accumulate to this level, which only lead him to believe that he had blacked out for its duration.
That still didn’t change the fact that he had no recollection what-so-ever of how he even managed to find the cabin. His wolf had obviously taken over. But when had that happened?
What was the last thing that he remembered?
The memories of the fight with Pablo came.
Ah, yes, the bastard was finally dead.
And it has been a blood bath.
By now, Marcus would have taken care of the battlefield and probably swore vengeance against Jon for leaving Nessa to deal with the fallout of such a massacre. Jonathan couldn’t help but smirk inwardly as he pictured the livid faces of the remaining Royals who would have gone up and beyond to try to fight his Living Will the moment that it was read! After all, he had left a distant relative in charge, overlooking wolves with stronger pretense for the crown. And if that wasn’t enough to piss the conservative jerks off, he had left a she-wolf in charge. He smirked. That wouldn’t have gone down smoothly, but Nessa had Marcus by her side! Jonathan knew that her hulky mate would walk through fire for her. It was amazing how quickly and tightly the two had bonded, despite being Choice Mates.
The memories about the events thereafter were foggy at best. He vaguely remembered running though forests… and probably a run in or two… or three with some wolves.
He cringed at the memories.
Werewolves were proud creatures. They didn’t take lightly on random lone-wolfs trespassing through their territories, even if the trespasser in question was their Monarch….
Jon decided not to dwell on the past as he felt his anger spike again. In the end, he only cared about how long he had been in wolf form? A couple of days? A week?
His eyes narrowed at the bubbly she-wolf, who much to his surprise had stopped talking and was watching him intently. Any juicy story that involved the Royals, much less the reestablishment of the Monarchy, would spread like wildfire through the Packs. The she-wolf that called herself Avery had to know what was going on in the real world.
He only had to make her tell him!
He needed to treat the subject lightly so that she does not notice his profound interest in the matter. And to be in any position to ask for information, he had to show her he was not a threat to her well being, which involved shifting in his human at some point. He could also opt to link with her and reveal he is the Monarch himself. But that was not a viable option, since he was not ready to face the formality that came with the title.
Trust took time to be established, but dominance relied on brute power and fear. The first he possessed in abundance and the second was easy. After all she was a mere she-wolf, alone in the cabin! It wouldn’t be hard to make her bow to him, since he was a male Royal wolf. Jonathan inwardly smirked. She wouldn’t stand a chance.
As he turned to her, he snapped his jaws at her demanding respect. That was a gesture he knew damn well she understood, but surprisingly she chose to ignore it, continuing with her rant. Jon growled in displeasure. Intimidation would not work if the damn she-wolf was busy blabbing!
“Oh, please, my place is not half as bad as hotels that I’ve stayed in.” She quickly informed him.
Jon didn’t know what kind of run down places she frequented, but this was definitely not appropriate to be called “a home”. Shelter suited it much better as its bare interior suggested its primal use – necessity.
Jonathan assumed a more domineering stand that clearly stated – challenge and face death.
The she-wolf, that called herself Avery, continued unaffected: “So, since you’re my roomie for the next couple of days at least, you need to understand my house rules. One, don’t you go now peeing onto my stuff! I have a bathroom… actually two. You can have the guest room, too, which down the corridor to the left if you want to refresh yourself”.
She pointed over her shoulder and then kept her eyes on him.
Did she really think that she has to house-break him?
He was not a wild-animal. He was a werewolf just like her!
Even worse, he was a ROYAL for Goddess sake! He had manners!
“How are you feeling?” Her voice came closer than before and Jonathan snarled at her proximity.
Pissed off – that was how he was feeling! Didn’t she realize that he could rip her throat with one fluent swing of his paw? Didn’t she have any survival instinct? Who in their right mind would approach a beast and ask for its feelings?
Jonathan shook his head, chasing away the questions that were swirling in his brain. Another blood-chilling thought came to his mind – how many of her rules had fallen passed his deaf ears? He had no doubt that he will keep on hearing them the moment that he unintentionally break them.
But why was he concerned of HER rules?
Jon didn’t have time for this shit. He wanted respect. And if he was going to live with her, it was best if she knew it from now! He snarled at her, reestablishing his dominance.
“All that growling will get you a tummy ache”, she said and then walked towards the sofa, leaving him in utter confusion. Did she just walk away from him? Not that he was talking to her per se, but her reluctance to interact and acknowledge his superiority surprised and peeved him to no end.
It was official - she was mental.
Jonathan wanted to strangle her himself. Who in their right mind would even consider taking in a grown male shifter, especially when she lived alone? He could only smell her patchouli sage scent, which was relaxing, woodsy and earthy enough to keep him grounded. There was no one else’s scent imprinting the place beside hers and his. Was she a lunatic or how did she completely manage to loose her common sense?
She must have been off the deep end, if she thought taking in a Rogue was a bright idea! True, he was grateful that he was warm and cozy, instead of fighting the white death outside, but she couldn’t have possibly known that he was one of the good ones! His urge to pour some caution in her thick skull intensified, rooting him in his place. Weighing his options, he growled as he realized he could not just simply dessert her.
She was more helpless than a pup in a Pack House!
Avery always felt light headed when it came to nursing herself. It all remained a mystery to her, how she was able to handle dealing with someone else’s wounds and blood, but so much as a finger prick and drop of her own blood were enough to make her dizzy.
Away from sight, away from mind.
That’s what she kept chanting to herself as she took a deep breath, trying to steady her gaze on anything but the dripping hot liquid that was coming off her finger. She turned on the sink and hissed as she squeezed her finger under the running water. The pink liquid danced against the white sink and disappeared down the drain.
How many times did she have to clean herself up and pretend that nothing had happened?
It has been a vicious spiral of denial and regret. She should have been better, done better…. Until the very end, she had not thought she had it in her to actually snap and break free. And now she was paying for her rash decisions, trying to live each day and make up for all the things that she had missed.
As she couldn’t feel the prickling of the glass that was lodged into her skin mere seconds ago, she finally stopped squeezing her finger and washed it with antiseptic. She knew that it would heal in a matter of an hour, but still felt the need to put a band-aid on top of the cut.
Away from sight, better for her own mind.
Werewolves did heal quicker than humans, but it didn’t make them any less squeamish about their injuries. Especially Avery.
He had accepted her flaws and reluctantly so had she until….
She ran her hand through her reddish hair, trying to clear her mind. She had to stop focusing on the past and deal with the present. A present in the shape of a male werewolf that badly needed a proper house training…
Walking away from the bathroom, Avery was not even surprised when she saw that nothing had changed in the living room, except for the sandwich. It was nowhere in sight. She tried to suppress her grin at his stubbornness. Surely, she had hoped against all reason he had at least done what she had told him to do and cleaned the mess up. Instead he had only cleaned to the extent of eating the damn sandwich off the floor.
Maybe taking in a stray wolf (a rogue at that by his ever-so-prominent dreadful stink) was not her brightest idea. Avery huffed. She was not going to let him damper her mood. His eyes were focused on her, cautiously watching her as her own eyes swept over the broken plate. If he wanted to provoke a reaction from her, he was sadly mistaken.
She had done her good deed for the day.
She quickly explained to him who she was despite his obvious lack of interest in what she was saying. She cringed at the way his stinky self planted himself on the sofa. He really needed to be house broken, but now was not the time to show her true intension. Let him accommodate himself and understand that she meant him no harm, before his house breaking begun.
As she said her peace, she walked across the room and picked up her novel, letting his narrowed blue eyes follow her moves closely. Let him evaluate and judge, trying to figure out what her next move was going to be. The low growl vibrated through his chest as he realized that she was flat out ignoring him.
When would he just stop with those growls?
Didn’t he understand they didn’t affect her?
She growled back at him in reply, which only jolted him on all of his fours on the floor, assuming a position that was easily to defend or attack in case of a need. She smirked as she had managed to rile him up, which had been his own goal.
How do you like it now, Mr. Rogue?
At least she had managed to get him off the sofa.
His roar intensified, warning her to stay away. As if she was stupid enough to get anywhere near his stinky persona again. One close encounter was more than enough to last her a life time. She wished she could scrub the stench off her nose, but it would be for nothing if he didn’t take a bath. Bathing was a necessary chore that they had to discuss. If he was going to stay in the house with her, she would have to throw out everything that he touched. And her cottage was already sparsely furnished as it was!
Her poor sofa! By now it was drenched in his stink!
She decided to ignore him tonight. Who knew she might as well try to trick him into bathing himself if she properly chose her words?
“When you are done sulking and want to freshen up, use the bedroom on the left. You can pick whatever fits you in the closet. The fireplace works with those big logs over there. You pick them up and throw them inside”, Avery proceeded to explain as if he was a ten year old pup. Understandingly he growled. “Growling will get a tummy ache!” He snarled even louder at her comment to which she brushed it off with her sentence. “Just don’t say that I didn’t warn you that the fireplace needs tending.” He growled even more menacing at her. “Oh, sure, you can help yourself to the leftovers in the fridge.” If he was hungry enough he would shift back and open the fridge himself. His blue eyes followed her as his roar started dying down as he noticed that she was going to leave the room. Avery used his distracted state to push him, “Thanks, I’ll have a good night, too!” She winked at him leaving him stunned as he was assuming his threatening position, defending the fireplace. Little good would that fireplace do for him, if he didn’t throw a log over the night.
Leaving him do some human-related chores would serve him good. She was relying on the simple fact that if he shifted in his human, the rational part of him would figure out he was smellier than a skunk and use the amenities at his disposal to rid himself of the stench. Hopefully in the morning, she would be able to chase away the nasty smell with a scented candle or two!
Avery smirked as she walked down the hallway to her room, shutting her door off. Time to figure out what was going to happen next to her favorite heroine! If the book proved to have another steamy scene, she had set her mind to get to it! It was going to be a lovely evening – house guest or not, she was alive and was going to make the best of it.
Pages in the book, she heard the floorboards creaking under the weight of the oversized wolf that had conveniently decided to make his presence known. Like a good dog he was investigating his surroundings, deeming them non-threatening. So predictable! Avery rolled her eyes at the noise. If he thought that he would piss her off, he was in for a surprise. He could trash the whole place for all she cared. She wouldn’t have to stay here for longer than necessary. She only needed for the snow to ease and start melting before she would leave the cottage for good.
Too bad that the blue-china set had not survived the initial encounter with the Rogue.
When she heard the running water in the guest-bathroom, she smirked.
Avery 1; big bad Rogue 0.
Not that she was keeping score!
Nah, who was she kidding? Of course, she did keep score. She tried to suppress her giggle as not to irritate her house guest who despite his overgrown size was easier to manipulate than a pup.
Whenever she-wolves decided to stay with Avery for some time, their pups had put her nerves to a challenge. Every case was different but they could be generally be classified into two groups: those who knew of the reason behind their stay and those who didn’t. Avery could not figure out which was harder on the pups. The first group quickly settled in their new household but was dealing with unresolved feelings and became time-bombs that could set off by the smallest reminder of the abuse they had witnessed. The second group would actually blame Avery for breaking up their family. And they would try to punish her by lashing out. Severely. Half of Avery’s scars were from those troubled pups, who with time became some of the most loyal Enforcers she knew.
Goddess, how she missed them!
All of them.
Even her new pet project was not enough to keep her mind away from her extended family.
Trying to clear her mind, Avery noted that at least there was hope that her cottage would not smell like a pigsty in the morning. She only regretted not telling him to open a window for a while. Nah, if she had, he probably would have never taken the shower. It has always been a delicate balance of how much you could push a male wolf to do your bidding, before he dug himself into a hole of stubbornness. It didn’t matter if his mind actually registered the need for shower now and again.
That’s what they should be called. The thought only made her giggle.