Chapter 1: Ryker
You know they always say hindsight is 20/20, but I still don't see why what happened had to happen to me. It could've been anyone, but it was me. I guess I'm thankful in someways, I mean it made me a better person, but the getting there was something I wouldn't wish on anyone, not even Wolfgang Dawson.
It all started last September. I was looking for my mate, while training to become beta of the pack when my father and his beta stepped down for me and my brother. My older brother Xadrian was training to be alpha. We're werewolves you see. Yes, we're real. We live amongst you like average humans. My pack lives in Bellefontaine, Ohio. There's lots of woods, and open space. All of the pack lives on the outer edge of town, but we spend more time at the pack site. A few humans live this far out of town, but they pretty much leave us alone.
So, it was September, my dad, had sent me to the store to get some groceries for Antonella and Paolo. Bellefontaine only had one grocery store. A small shop called Rosie's that sits in the middle of town. I was out at the pack site. So I shifted to my wolf form, and ran through the trees toward, Main Street. I loved this. Being a wolf is...it's freedom. The world is so beautiful, human eyes can never quite appreciate it. In wolf form everything becomes more acute. The green of trees becomes clearer, deeper. The moss beneath your feet or paws, whichever, becomes more intricate. The deer seem more graceful, the fur of a chipmunk thicker as if you can almost see every hair on it's body. When you're a wolf the forest just seems to thrum, like it's alive. It's almost magical. The heartbeat of the forest, I call it.
As I reached Main Street, I shifted back to my human form. Yes, our clothes shift with us. I know there've been books that said they don't, but they do. We shift fully clothed, and our clothes remain intact as we shift back. I jogged into Rosie's intent on getting in, and out as fast as I could. I had promised my little sister I would take her on a run this afternoon, and I wanted to make sure we had plenty of time. As, I was speed walking through the store, I caught the scent of something that made me stop in my tracks. It smelled like chocolate covered strawberries, and something else. Something I wasn't sure what was. I knew though that it was my mate I was smelling. Every mate says they smelled something different when they found their mate. My dad said my mom smelled like flowers. I think he said, daisies, if you want to get technical. My brother Xadrian said his mate smelled like a new car. Weird, I know, but like I said it's different for everyone. As, soon as the smell came it was gone. I tried to find it again as I walked through the store. Every once in a while I would get it, but it would disappear again. I finished getting the stuff that I needed, and walked up to the check out. Just as I arrived I caught that smell again. I turned just in time to see a young woman walk out of sight into the parking lot. I growled under my breath, I had just lost my mate. She had been right there, and I lost her. I took a calming breath and turned to finish paying for my groceries. I left Rosie's, and started walking back to the pack site. I couldn't shift to wolf form with the groceries, so I walked, sulkily back towards the site. Not even the woods that I loved so much could lift my spirits then. You see some werewolves spend their whole lives looking for their mate. We can live without our mates, but it's like living without a piece of ourselves. That was the reason I was so upset. I was so close to her, my mate. My, as Katy Perry would say, missing puzzle piece, and then she was gone.
I was greeted a couple minutes outside of camp by a pale, blonde-haired child. I smiled when I saw her coming towards me. Only, she could make me smile after what happened.“Ryker!” she called as she ran toward me. Her dress billowing as she ran through the twigs, swirling the leaves at her feet.
“Hey, Lissa.” I said in greeting. She stopped when she reached me, and hugged me. Her blue eyes shining excitedly.“Are we still going on our hike?” she asked, after she let go of me, and we started walking back towards the pack site together.
“Of course we are.” I assured her smiling. She bounced on the balls of her feet, her bare toes peeking out from under the dress.
“Lissa, does mom know your out of the house without shoes again?” I asked sternly, trying not to smile at my little sister's stubbornness.
She looked down at her feet, “Well, you see, she doesn't exactly know that I'm gone.” She looked up at me through her eyelashes, smiling guiltily.I couldn't stop the chuckle that came out when she gave me that look. I shook my head at her.
“You are going to get yourself in trouble one of these days little Lis. You run along home, and change into something that you can hike in. I have to run these things over to Antonella for the dinner tomorrow.” She nodded happily, and took off running in the direction of our little cabin. I shook my head before turning, and heading toward the pack site. It only took me a couple minutes to reach the site. As soon as I entered the site I was greeted by my sister Lara. Lara was only a few years younger than me.“What took you so long?” she asked me, as we walked toward Antonella and Paolo's cottage.
“I stopped to talk to Lis.” I said. She sighed, shaking her head. She never understood the bond Lis and I shared. Just like I would never understand the one she shared with Xadrian. I guess it was just one of those sibling things. Me and Xad were close, but we were never as close as Xad and Lara were. Lara walked away, and I went up the steps, to the cottage. Antonella and Paolo were one of the only mated couples in our pack. Paolo was my father's beta, and my teacher, as I was supposed to become beta when he stepped down. His wife Antonella was very sweet. She had some sort of muscular disorder so she was in a wheel chair now, and often times I or other young weres were sent to pick up groceries for her and Paolo. I knocked on the door, and waited. A minute later the door opened, and I was met with Antonella's smiling face.“Hello, Ryker.” she said smiling.
“Mrs. Antonella.” I greeted, nodding my head at her. “I have your groceries.” She wheeled her chair out of the way so I could enter the cottage. I took a breath as I entered, and smiled. The cottage was always the same. It smelled of cinnamon, and the fire crackled happily in the fireplace. The bookshelf standing in the corner filled with all the books Antonella had made me read. Antonella and Paolo were really like my second parents. Paolo trained me for my duties, Antonella trained me for my home. When I was with Paolo we would talk about leading the search parties out to look for new weres to recruit. We would practice combat, in both human form and wolf form. But when I was with Antonella she would teach me about cooking, or reading. I found a great love of books, because of Antonella, and I am forever grateful for that.
“How many times do I have to tell you, child, just Antonella is fine!” she said, as we she followed me to the kitchen.
“Until I remember I guess.” I chuckled. I always called her Mrs. Antonella, it just felt wrong if I didn't. “I assume you want these put away like normal.” I said.
“If you don't mind.” she said. I started putting away the groceries. A knock came at the door, and Antonella excused herself to see who it was. Seconds later she returned with a bouncy Lissa right on her heels. I laughed when I saw my sister.
“Lis, what are you doing here?” I asked as I closed the refrigerator door.
“I came so we could go on our hike.” she said simply. I smiled, and shook my head. Things were so simple in the mind of a child.
“Alright, go on I'll be one minute.” I said. She bounded out of the house. I turned back to Antonella. “The groceries are all taken care of Mrs. Antonella.”
“Thank-you, child.” she said. I smiled, and bent down and kissed her cheek. She saw me out the door. As I turned to head for the trail, I heard her call; “Have fun, and be safe.” I jogged to the trail, where Lissa was waiting for me. I shifted, and let her climb on my back. Lissa couldn't shift yet, she was too young. I took off toward the lake that was about a fifteen minute run away. As we ran I enjoyed listening to Lissa's little giggles as the world raced past. When we arrived at the lake I shifted back to my human form.
“What should we do first, Lis?” I asked, slightly out of breath from carrying her here. She thought about it for a minute.
“Let's look for butterflies.” she said excitedly. She ran off toward a patch of bushes where we always saw butterflies. One thing to know about Lissa she loves butterflies, and fairies. Anything delicate...like she is. Lissa has always been the smallest in our family. Probably one of the reasons I'm so over protective of her. When Lissa was born the doctor thought she wouldn't make it, but she pulled through, she's a fighter. We stayed at the lake for quite a while. Twilight was drawing near, and I could see Lissa's eyes starting to droop, I decided it was time to head back. I shifted to my wolf form, and Lissa climbed on my back. She wrapped her arms around my neck, and buried her face in the fur on my back. I ran back to the cottage. When we got there my mother was waiting for us. She picked up a sleeping Lissa from my back so I could shift without hurting her. Once I was back in my human form I carried Lissa upstairs, and tucked her in, gently kissing her forehead before leaving the room. I walked back downstairs, and collapsed on the couch. My mother came in a few minutes later with a mug of hot chocolate for me, and tea for herself. She sat down in the chair across from me, and we sat, in silence listening to the fire crackle in the hearth.
“Where's dad and Xad?” I asked, after a moment.“They're running patrols tonight.” mom said, taking a sip of her tea. I took a sip of my cocoa letting it warm my chilly body. It was starting to cool down now at night.
“And Lara?” I asked if she was out on patrol too. I felt a growl build in the back of my throat. It wouldn't be fair! I was older!
“She's out with Toni.” mom said. I sagged back against the couch, visibly relaxing. My mom noticed and chuckled.“Don't worry sweetheart, your father wouldn't take Lara out on patrols before you. He knows how much it means to you.”, she got up to take her mug to the kitchen. I looked down at my half-empty mug of cocoa. I stared into the fire. I wondered what it was like to patrol? Patrolling was one of the most important jobs in the pack. Only the best were allowed on patrol. Patrols watched out for bears and other animals trying to get into the pack sight, as well as kept an eye out for vampires. Vampires weren't always a bad thing, but most of the time...they were. The next time I opened my eyes sunlight was streaming through the wide bay windows to my left. I blinked as my eyes tried to adjust to the bright light. I didn't even remember falling a sleep, but apparently I had. I got up, and stretched making sure all my muscles were okay after sleeping on the couch. My mom appeared a moment later. “Oh, good your up. Paolo said to tell you you have a free day. And he said Antonella said to use it wisely, and that you'd know what she meant,” mom said.I smiled, I knew exactly what Antonella meant. I kissed my mother's cheek before heading for the door.“
I'm going to town mom!” I called, racing out the door.
“Be back by supper!” she called. I shifted, and raced towards town. One thing Bellefontaine did have going for it was it's lovely library. The library was about two buildings down from Rosie's on Main Street, but was much taller. I shifted, and ran up the steps to the library. I went to the front desk, pulling my wallet out of my pocket as I went. “Good morning, Mrs. Grace.” I said, as I reached the front desk in the center of the library.The older lady smiled fondly at me. I was a regular here at the Bellefontaine Library, sadly not many people were.
“Good morning, Ryker dear. I haven't seen you in a couple days.” she said, going back to the stack of books that had just arrived from the big library in Lima.
“I've been busy.” I said, evasively. Mrs. Grace was a human. Humans don't know about us. Well, some do, but most of them can't be talked to anymore, except in padded cells. Mrs. Grace found the books I ordered, and brought them back to the front desk. I took my library card out of my wallet, and handed it to her.
“Here ya go, Mrs. Grace.” I said, smiling. My eyes twinkling with excitement as she checked the books out.
“Are you reading here or at home today?” Mrs. Grace asked.
“Actually I was going to go out to the lake today.” I said, “Got to enjoy the weather while we can.”
“Ain't that the truth!” she said, “Next thing you know snow will be here.” she shivered, as if just the thought of snow made her cold. She handed me my books.
“Thanks Mrs. Grace.” I said, turning to leave.
“Wait, child!” she exclaimed. I turned back to Mrs. Grace. “I wanted to know if you would like to come to dinner tomorrow. You see I have someone I want you to meet.” I could tell by the twinkle in her eye that she wanted to introduce me to the girl she kept telling me about. I thought about it, what could it really hurt? Plus, I could tell it would make Mrs. Grace so happy.
I smiled, “I'd love to.”
Mrs. Grace squealed like a girl, and ran around the desk to hug me. “Your such a sweet boy.” she said, patting my cheek.
I chuckled.“I'll see you tomorrow Mrs. Grace.” I said. I walked out of the library shaking my head. That woman was something else, though most women in Bellefontaine were. Many, of the older ladies in Bellefontaine had tried to set me or my brothers up with some or such relative of theirs. It never worked out, because none of them were our mate. I then realized I'd left my backpack at home. Which meant I couldn't shift...I sighed, this was gonna be a long walk.