Riding with the Pack

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Chapter 10

Tessa

“Here comes the bride! Here comes the bride!” I was jolted to consciousness by the loud singing of my sisters.

“What the hell?” I mumbled out groggily.

“Time to get up sleeping beauty!” Grace jumped on top of me and straddled my resting frame only to be quickly shoved off.

“You’ve got a big day ahead of ya!” Monica grabbed my wrists and attempted to pull me out of bed to no avail.

“Huh?” I grunted, still half asleep.

I didn’t know what the hell they were talking about. The wedding wasn’t until tomorrow and I’d be long gone by then-

“OH MY GOD! THE WEDDING!” I cried out and burst out of my bed like it was on fire.

“You didn’t forget, did you sweetie?” My mom questioned as I hurled myself past her and toward the laundry room.

“No! It’s just! Um, maybe!” I called back as I practically threw myself down the steps.

I gathered my clothes into a nearby basket quickly and bolted to my room as fast as I could. I needed to pack. I needed to get out of here. Hell, I should be halfway across the state by now but no! I just had to fall asleep.

Idiot!

“Oh, shit! Shit! SHIT!” I cursed as I locked myself in our walk-in closet. I couldn’t exactly pack my bags in front of everyone without expecting to raise a few questions, now could I?

“Tess? You okay in there?” I heard Grace call out to me from the other side of the door.

“Yep! Just fine!” I lied.

“You sure? I can help you get ready if-” I slammed my body against the door to keep in shut as soon as I noticed her trying to jimmy the handle. That little snake.

“Um, I’m naked!” I snapped.

“Like you didn’t just flash your tits to our entire family days ago.” Even though I couldn’t see her, I knew she had to be rolling her eyes. “Come on, just-”

“WHAT?!” I yanked the door open and screamed in her face, earning another eye roll.

“I just wanted to-” Grace tried to respond calmly but I didn’t let her.

“I don’t need help getting ready! I need to be ALONE! Got it?!” I continued, trying to say or do anything to earn a few minutes to myself.

“Fine. Suit yourself, but you need a shower. You smell stressed and it’s throwing off the mood of your big day.” Grace put her hand on my shoulder and spoke calmly, much to my surprise.

Usually we’d be in the midst of a full on cat fight by now.

“I don’t need a-!” I protested but my mother shut my childish temper tantrum down almost as soon as it had started.

“Tessandra Davis! You better get your butt in the shower right now! It’s your wedding day for goodness sake! Have some class!” My mom reprimanded as she grabbed my arm and dragged me to the bathroom.

“Fine!” I gave in reluctantly and closed the door behind me.

At least I’ll have some time to think, I tried to soothe my nerves as I waited for the water to warm. Time to come up with a plan B.

As I stepped into the shower and thoroughly washed my long black locks, I had decided on a proper game plan. I knew that I would have to remain calm for it to work however, since panicking didn’t really seem to be doing me any good.

I looked around the shower for anything that I may need while I was on the road. I decided to take my favorite lavender scented body wash and my razor with me since they were expensive. I also snagged my toothbrush and makeup bag, knowing that they would likely fit in my purse. I wrapped my loot into my pile of discarded clothes in order to remain inconspicuous and held it close to my chest as I walked to my room in a towel.

“Hey, do you need me to put your clothes away while you get ready?” Monica inquired, clearly wanting to be put to use in some way.

Now that I realized it, everyone seemed to want to help in some way.

If I want them off my back, I’ll have to keep them busy.

“Family meeting!” I yelled loudly as I set my pile of clothes into the closet carefully and stepped into the living room.

I was still in a towel but I really couldn’t care less at the moment. Everyone filed into the sitting area without argument and a sea of eyes fell upon me. I forced a wry smile to paint my lips as I gave the best performance of my freaking life.

“Listen, I know you all really want to help me, and I appreciate that. Really, I do.” I began my speech as sweetly as possible, channeling my inner damsel. “But all of you following me around asking if I need this or that is really starting to stress me out.”

“We weren’t trying to,” Monica exclaimed, looking horrified.

“Oh, no I know! I’m not mad.” I assured her before continuing. “It’s just that, I’m already nervous and I could really use some space to breathe. So, I’m going to ask each of you to do a very specific job for me, and that’s it. Okay?”

“Whatever you need, bud.” My dad answered for the rest of them with a smile that didn’t reach his eyes.

He seemed off, like he wasn’t ready for me to get married either. I ignored him briefly and looked to my other dads.

“Ryan and Gavin? Can you guys start setting everything up outside? Like the chairs, alter, all of that?” I asked my co-parents as innocently as possible and awaited their nods of agreement before continuing. “Mom, you basically planned everything so I’ll need you out there telling them where things go.”

“I can do that!” My mom exclaimed excitedly.

I'm just happy to get her out of the house

“Monica, you’re in charge of decorating. I don’t care what you do out there, just make it look nice.” I assigned. “Grace, I need you to be my manager. I can’t be asked a million questions right now, so make sure everyone goes through you first.”

“I won’t let anyone bother you,” She promised.

“Dad, I need you to run to the shop and find something blue. Then come back home and get ready.”

“Blue?” He questioned.

“For the wedding Lucas! Keep up!” My mom snipped and I suddenly felt kind of bad for my old man.

“Grace, I also need you to-” I began but was interrupted by a cold chill that I was scheduled to marry.

“What can I do?” Ethan asked enthusiastically as he waltzed through the front door like he owned the damn place.

“You can stay the hell out of my way,” I replied to him grimly, feeling my eyes turn to slits.

I could feel my fur trying to prick through my skin at being this close to him in so little clothing. He made me sick, and I hoped to God this would be the last time I’d ever have to lay eyes on this pathetic excuse of a mate.

“Ah, come on. There has to be something I can do, sweetheart.” His words made my stomach churn.

“Actually Grace,” I focused my full attention on my sister as I desperately tried to ignore the pompous ass heading my way. “I need you to keep him as far away from me as possible until the ceremony. Can you do that?”

“Is that really necessary?” He argued beside mom.

“Can you do that?” I asked Grace firmly and refused to break eye contact until she nodded.

“Yeah sure,” she shrugged.

“Why can’t I-?” He began but I cut him off.

“It’s bad luck to see the bride on her wedding day, Ethan.” I hissed his name venomously.

“Okay, sorry Bridezilla.” He snorted as he made his way toward the bathroom.

I gave him a curious look and was answered by my mother.

“We just thought it’d be a good idea if he got ready here since the wedding was going to be-” She tried to explain.

“I don’t want him anywhere near me. I don’t want him to look at me, touch me, talk to me, anything.” I sneered, letting my hatred for him slip out. “I don’t even want him breathing the same air as me.”

“Okay, I’ll keep him occupied!” Grace swore, relieving me slightly.

“Fine,” I decided to let it go and trust her, having much more important matters to attend to. “Well, you all have your jobs. Get to em! Go on!”

I shooed everyone out of the house besides Grace and hightailed it to my closet. First things first: packing.

I locked the closet door behind me and got to work filling my bag. I opted to wear my bulkier clothing options so that I had some spare room as I neatly rolled and stuffed my clothes into the bottom of the sack.

I then resorted to shoving my perfume, deodorant, and body wash into the outer pockets along with any spare underwear that I could fit inside. I grabbed a hair brush and an extra pair of shoes before moving on to filling my purse.

With my main bag packed to the brim, I decided to keep my purse light, only putting my phone, headphones, wallet and makeup bag into it. I found that I still had a small amount of space left, so I figured I’d better pack some food in case I got hungry.

I adorned my body with my favorite jeans, a bulky shirt and my Bon Jovi hoodie. I swiftly tied my red flannel around my waist and tossed my damp hair into a neat knot that would fit under one of my dad’s work hats.

I listened for any sign of life in the house before stepping out of my room cautiously. I’d have to be quick. I hurried into the kitchen to make a peanut butter surprise and shoved a few apples and protein bars into my purse, along with a bottle of water. I then ran back to the safety of my closet to grab my backpack.

This is it.

I looked around my bedroom for the last time and had to choke down the tears that threatened to spring from my eyes. There were so many memories here, so much that I was leaving behind. But I knew I couldn’t stay. Not with him. If I did, there was no telling what that bastard might do to me.

I’m not sticking around to find out either.

A quick glance outside was enough to show me that everyone was still going about their jobs accordingly. They were distracted, thank the heavens. I listened for any sound outside the door for several moments whilst gathering the nerve to open it. Just as I was reaching for the handle, a soft knock from the other side had my blood running cold.

“Tessa?”

Oh no!

My breathing stopped at the sound of Ethan’s voice beckoning me from the other side of the wooded opening. I was too frozen in fear to answer him.

“Look, I know you’re there.” He admitted. “I can hear you breathing.”

“What the hell do you want, Ethan?” I tried to sound tough but my voice barely came out as a whisper.

“I just wanted to say I was sorry, okay?” His voice was soft and innocent. A trick. “What I did wasn’t right and I know that. I just got caught up in the mating bond and, well I’m not here to make excuses.”

“Then what do you want?” I pleaded with him for an answer.

“I want this to work. I know I royally fucked up,” he groaned against the door. “But I promise I’ll spend the rest of my life trying to make it up to you. If you’ll let me, that is.”

His voice broke at the end and I guessed he was on the brink of tears. If I didn’t know any better, I’d almost think that his apology was actually genuine. He continued talking without a word from me.

“I don’t deserve you and I know that. I always have,” he sighed. “Truth is, you’re way out of my league. Girls like you used to tease the shit out of me growing up and when I found out that we were fated mates, I just didn’t know how to handle it. I was still angry at how I’d been treated before but I also wanted you more than anything in the world and I just didn’t know what to do. But whether you believe me or not, I truly am sorry. I know that I can’t change what I’ve done in the past, but I want to prove to you that I can be different. I can be the mate you deserve if you’d just give me the chance.” He finished in a rush, likely fighting tears.

Did he really just sit here and try to play the victim?! I thought angrily. He beat me, humiliated me, and tried to fucking RAPE me, yet HE’S the victim in this?! Fuck you!

I knew that I couldn’t go off on him now, not when I was so close to escaping. Instead, I took a step back and swallowed my pride.

“You really hurt me, Ethan.” I admitted honestly.

“I know! I am so sorry, Tessa I-” he answered.

“But, if you’re willing to change then I suppose I could give you a second chance.” I told him what he wanted to hear. “I kind of want this to work too, if not for us then for my sisters.”

“Oh thank you, Tessa! You won’t regret it I promise!” He yelled joyfully.

“It’s gonna take time, though.” I called out as I felt him begin to turn the door knob. “You have to give me some time, okay? I’m still hurt.”

“Oh, right. Sorry,” he muttered. “I’ll wait. You can take as much time as you need, okay? I’ll be outside if you need me.”

I breathed a sigh of relief as I heard him step away from the door, but it quickly caught in my throat as his heavy breathing sounded from the other side of the door.

"Oh, and Tess?" He asked sweetly.

"Hm?" I replied as my heart pounded like a drum in my ears.

"Just wanted to let you know that I rented a room at that sleazy motel down the road that you liked," he purred lowly.

"The what?" I choked.

"Don't act like you don't know. I got us the same room and everything," he revealed.

Oh God.

Tears stung my eyes as an onslaught of memories from that horrid night filled my mind. I had to cover my mouth to prevent a sob from wracking my body as I could still feel his hands on my thighs.

"Make sure to wear that towel again tonight, alright?" Ethan whispered. "You look better when you're not trying."

Without another word, I heard his heavy footsteps leave the house and bound down the stairs of the back porch. I stood there for a few minutes collecting myself.

That is the last time I will ever allow that fucker to speak to me.

I cracked my door open slightly to study the empty hallway. I didn't sense anyone else roaming the house. I decided to make a break for it and sprinted to the front door, grabbing one of my dad's worn hats on the way.

The wedding events were taking place in the back and the guests weren't scheduled to arrive for another hour, so the front of the house should be clear.

If I can make it to the woods, I can follow the road into town and-

"Where do you think you're going?"

My heart stopped. This couldn't be happening right now.

"Grace, please." I turned to face my sister.

I was caught. There was no getting out of it. I had my bags packed and wasn't even close to resembling a bride.

"I can't marry him," I admitted with tears in my eyes.

I was prepared to do what I had to in order to get the hell out of here, even if that meant beating down my own sister.

"I know," she replied casually. "I snuck in while you were in the closet and saw your bags when you ran past me to make a sandwich."

How did I miss that?!

"I can't believe you actually thought you'd get away with it, though." She chuckled menacingly. "I mean, what were you thinking? That you could just run out the front door and no one would catch you? Where were you gonna go? You couldn't have thought you'd get away on foot. Please tell me you're not that stupid!"

"What are you gonna do?" I decided to get straight to the point, not being able to take the anticipation any longer.

"Nothing," she shrugged. "He's an abusive piece of shit and I don't blame you for running. Especially after the shit he pulled at our wedding. I don't even know what to say about your little conversation just now."

I didn't know what to say. I didn't know how to feel. Was she turning me in or letting me go? What the hell?!

"But there's no way you're getting out of here on foot," she doubted and motioned her head toward the door.

I followed her gaze and was met with the electric blue eyes of my dad. He smiled knowingly at me and held his favorite denim jacket in his hands.

"At least it's something blue," he chuckled lowly as he handed it to me. "I figured you'd want something to remember me by while you're out there finding your own way."

"Dad, I-" I tried to choke out an explanation.

"Save it for the car," he stopped me and turned to walk out the door.

"Dad-," I began.

"I'm driving!" He called over his shoulder quietly.

I turned to Grace bewildered. She must've seen the confusion plastered on my face since she began to explain.

"I called him while you were lying to Ethan through the door. Nice one by the way, I almost believed you were serious," she joked. "And I ordered you a bus ticket to Ohio. This is from my savings, you can use it to buy another ticket once you're out of the state. That way I really won't know where you went if anyone asks."

She handed me a white envelope full of cash and a self printed bus ticket as she smiled sadly.

"Grace, I can't accept this." I tried to return it but she refused.

"Consider it your wedding gift," she pushed my hand away lightly as her large grey eyes brimmed with tears.

I threw my arms around her and held on for dear life. Out of everything that I had planned out meticulously, I never expected anything like this. I never thought I'd have to say goodbye.

"I love you," I sobbed against her beautiful blond hair. "I'm going to miss you so much. I wish you were coming with me."

"I know," she sniffled against my shoulder. "But someone has to keep everyone distracted."

"Thank you, Grace." I forced out upon releasing her.

She simply nodded and gave me a sad smile as I turned to walk out the door. I ran to my dad's old rusty truck and climbed inside with my bags cradled like a child. He sped down the drive without another word and tears cascaded down my cheeks as I watched my childhood home fade from the rear view mirror.

I held my father's hand for the entire hour drive to the bus station, digging my nails into his flesh accidentally. I did my best to soak up my tears, but it was a harder battle than I'd thought it would be. Eventually, we pulled in near the building and my dad parked as close to the entrance as he could.

He then stepped out of the truck and made his way over to my side. He silently opened the door for me, grabbed my bags, and helped me down. I curled myself around his muscular arm and allowed him to walk me into the station. He waited with me for several minutes and when the bus arrived, he wrapped me in his large denim jacket and helped me put on my bags.

"You better call me when you get to wherever you're going," he spoke with his voice full of emotion.

"I will," I choked out as fresh tears rushed to the surface. "I love you, dad."

"I love you too, bud." My dad sniffled.

He then reached into his jeans and pulled out a small object that he shoved into my hands discretely.

"Don't open this till you're on the train, and don't ever lose it. Promise me."

I nodded and stuffed the object into my pocket. I then flung myself at him and wrapped my arms around his neck. I'm not sure how long our embrace lasted, but to me it would never be long enough.

"Don't miss your bus now," my dad chuckled into my hair and released me from his hold. "If you need anything, and I mean anything. You call me. I don't care what it is or where you are, I'll be there. You understand?"

I nodded again, unable to speak through the tears. He smiled and planted a sloppy kiss on my forehead before nudging me toward the doors of the bus. Once I was loaded into my seat, I stared out the window and met my dad's crying eyes.

We waved to each other and didn't stop until we were both well out of view. I continued to stare out of that window for hours, watching my home state pass me by in a blur. I didn't know where I was going or what I was going to do from here.

Whatever it is, I thought. I just hope it doesn't hurt this much.

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