The phone rang and I immediately knew the reason behind the call. The picture on the screen only confirmed my fears and I couldn’t stop the groan that escaped my throat. It was my Alpha. Sure, Alpha Ezra wasn’t there in the room to lord over me with all his natural intensity. He couldn’t force me to submit and yet, the wolf inside me fidgeted.
My hand moved on its own. I answered, but I wasn’t going to pretend to be happy about it. I sighed. “Hello?”
“Drew,” Ezra spoke. His tone was gruff as if his words scratched his throat on the way out. “I hate to bother you so late...” He said and yet, I doubted that. This wasn’t the kind of man that wasted time doing things he didn’t want to do.
But Ezra was right. It was late, crossing midnight and on a stormy night too. I was so focused on unpacking and the move that I lost track of time. One more week and I’d officially be a college student on my way to becoming the pack’s perfect librarian. Martha Cardigan would retire in a few years—being she started in the Jurassic era—and I wanted to be ready to replace her with a degree in my hand.
I was surrounded by boxes in a room that was the size of a sardine can. To think, this really was enough space to fit all my worldly possessions. I could do whatever I wanted with it.
“But,” Ezra went on “he needs you.” He didn’t even need to say that idiot’s name and I knew. It wouldn’t be about anyone else. One day our names would be synonymous.
“Why me?” I sighed again, unable to hold it back and yet, I got up anyways. Shimming out of my sweatpants, I exchanged it for a pair of jeans. I grabbed my pea coat with the hood, searching around the boxes and trash for my car keys.
“He listens to you” and as Ezra was saying it, I could hear his smug smile. In some way, Ezra probably thought he was playing matchmaker.
“Can’t you get him-” Frustrated, I grasped for an excuse, but the answer was so obvious. There was no way I could make a father of three to leave his wife home with their newborn baby. I started over, “Never mind. Where is the idiot this time?” I glanced outside my small window. Rain streamed down the glass in parallel rivers and I wanted to go pick that idiot up even less.
“He’s at Uncle Pop’s,” the Alpha said. It was a dive bar, better known for its breakable furniture than its actual cuisine. They were rated in the top five bars to witness a fight inside.
Grumbling, I told him “I should get paid for this.”
The Alpha just laughed, so I hung up on him and hurried out the door. I got into the Honda Civic that the Beta Talia sold to me for five hundred dollars. It was a good deal, but now I was going to have to babysit for her the rest of my young adult life. That part-time job was also going to pay for most of my groceries. My grandmother gave me an allowance so I could focus on school. But the woman hadn’t gone to the grocery store in over twenty years and had no concept of how expensive everything cost. I’d never ask her for more, not after all she did for me.
She took me in, even though it was supposed to be her golden years with her husband. She treated me like one of her own, even if I was some orphan they found in the woods years ago.
I drove out into the night slowly, peering through the sheets of rain. My stomach tucked into a knot as I thought about that idiot. Praying Uncle Pop didn’t throw him out of the bar again that he just threw that idiot into the storage closet or something. I wasn’t convincing myself at all.
My college was nearly thirty minutes from home and once I started seeing the old familiar buildings and all the Christmas decorations, the tension I didn’t realize I had, all melted away. I smiled, feeling perfectly at home.
No. I had to stop being so sappy. The dorm was a good idea. The commute to school would drive me crazy. I already spent the whole summer struggling with this decision... but I’m here anyways so I guess it didn’t really matter in the end. My pack was here. I’d always be drawn back home.
I didn’t bother finding a real parking spot and just kept the car running by the sidewalk. I held my hand on the door and just listened to the rain pour and rattle the ceiling of the car. It’d been maybe a week since I saw that idiot. Maybe that was why he got himself into some trouble. I was his safety net. Not one of his buddies. Not even his boyfriend. Not that I wanted...
“Fuck it,” I huffed and dashed into the bar and trying not to drown in the meantime. The cold rain licked the back of my neck and ears. I slicked my bangs off my forehead, searching the empty bar. It smelled like spilled stale beer and sick. Without all the patrons, it was eerily quiet. And apparently, when people were gone, they played the best of Elvis Presley.
Only Uncle Pop and his daughter, Debra remained, stacking chairs upside down on the tables. Uncle Pop huffed and slammed the next chair at the sight of me. He was a robust man with thick hair arms and a mustache that completely covered his upper lip.
“Um,” I swallowed, a blush creeping up to my ears. “I’m looking for-”
“Your boy is where he belongs!” Uncle Pop raged and disappeared into the kitchen with a box in his arms. “With the rest of the trash!”
Dread spilled into my veins like concrete. Even my mouth dropped, but I still snapped at Debra, “how could you let him do that?!”
Halfway out of the bar, she pleaded “I’m sorry! I didn’t know!”
I ran into the rain, drenched in mere seconds. I turned the corner, hurrying down the alley behind the bar and somehow, I found an even worse smell. I swallowed my nausea, fighting through the acidic smog. The lamp light by the sidewalk just barely lit my path. I peered, slicking my hair back from my face as the sour water continuously dribbled down my face and tried to find my mouth.
“Jess!” I shouted his name and slowed down, when my foot caught something and I nearly fell onto my face. I snapped my head around, eying something between a bulky pile of trash bags. Leaning closer, I edged closer to stroke the dark hair out of Jess’ face. Bruises were blooming across his cheek bone and his eye was swollen. His lip was busted and his nose looked a little bent too. Hopefully it wasn’t broken. Not again.
“Jess,” I said, lightly tapping his face, even though he deserved a full slap. He was beautiful. He had dark golden brown skin and layers of dark wispy hair that grew longer and longer every year. His hair reached just under his jaw lately and his beard was growing an impressive amount of stubble. More and more, Jess was beginning to look like a man and with one look, he could melt my knees.
“Jess?” I sniffed against the stream of rain pouring down my face.
Twisting his face, Jess stirred awake. He groaned the way little kids do when awakened from their afternoon nap at school. His eyes peeled open and landed on me. He smiled. Still all he had to do was smile that awful crooked smile and my heart hit the ceiling of my chest.
Jess chuckled, “oh good. My ride is finally here. What took you so long?”
“Shut up,” I shook my head and now that Jess was present, I grabbed his arm and slung it over my neck. I dragged the drunkard to the car and he flopped into the passenger seat. I even buckled the guy, but when I leaned away, Jess grabbed my arm and yanked me towards him.
With his eyes closed, Jess smiled like a cheese-ball and said “I love you.”
Electric heat spread through every limb in my body and despite my blush and my pulsing heart, I scowled and told him “Jess, shut up.” Even if he could remember this moment, Jess would never admit it. He was drunk. I’m not aggressive enough to deck him, but man did I want to.
I’d even take a passionate kiss.
Jess would never allow it. He treated me like a china doll like I was a feather in danger of blowing away in the wind. We never talked about our feelings. We used our actions to express our feelings and yet, I’d still like him to tell me how he felt at least once.
I slammed his car closed and hurried back to my side. Despite being so furious with him for getting into another fight for disrupting my quiet little night, when I rested against my seat and turned to Jess, I felt whole. The piece that was missing in my dorm was here next to me. I forgot what it felt like to be there at all, alone in the silence. It seemed less shiny in my memory.
Jess grumbled, shifting around until his arms were crossed and his head fell onto my shoulder. I tensed for a moment, my whole body reacting to his intense presence. I always forgot he wasn’t an alpha.
Even if Jess was probably bad for me, ever since we met when I was sixteen, we’ve been inseparable. I’ve been cleaning up after Jess since Jess drove his motorcycle straight into my grandmother’s chicken coop.
I have never looked at any other wolf or any guy for that matter. My feelings, this constant worry for him in my gut terrified me to my very core. People talked about mates and they talked about their “fated ones” and yet, I tried to ignore them. The idea of some other guy appearing and uprooting my life freaked me out, made me worry about Jess more. I didn’t want to get my hopes up. I’m not used to being loved and I’d probably ruin it as soon as I had it.
Still, Jess took up most of my thoughts during the day and consumed me until Jess was back by my side, his rightful place. Even if we stayed liked this forever, completely unsure on what to call what we had, I wouldn’t mind.
As long as I had Jess.
As long as I had Jess.