Dean leaned against the withered wood of the musty bar in utter exhaustion. He had been on edge for the past few weeks and his nerves were beginning to wear on him. He paid little mind to the foolishness that fell from the mouths of his pack members as he had more pressing matters to focus on. It was like any other night, his pack found some hole in the wall to call their own for the evening while he sat in the corner brooding as usual.
The omegas were trying their damnedest to pick up a sleazy woman that lounged across one of the beaten down booths. Even from across the room, Dean could tell she was far too drunk to go home with anyone and knew he’d have to order his men to leave her alone eventually. Embry had decided to make himself useful as tonight’s entertainment as he bellowed out the words of ‘Living On A Prayer’. His Delta was likely trying to distract himself from the sight of Sam carelessly flirting with some bald-headed scum that had been in the bar since their arrival.
Nick sat at his side quietly, always the loyal Beta. Dean doubted he’d act any differently if he wasn’t here but it was hard to tell. Nick had always been the strong silent type with the only exception being a dry chuckle here or there when his mate would do something ridiculous. He and Dawn had gotten into an argument before they left, which resulted in her staying back at the pack house to ‘keep watch’. He knew she’d have Nick’s ass for coming home so late.
Ah, how Dean adored his little family’s routine. As much as he enjoyed the comfort of knowing their daily regimen like the back of his hand, focusing on it for too long only seemed to pull him into a deeper pit of disdain. He shook away his self pity and decided to wallow in other thoughts, like why the hell they were so far away from the rest of the pack in the first place.
He couldn’t explain it, like he said he’d been on edge for weeks and had finally had enough of it. A few nights ago he had awoken to someone calling out to him. He couldn’t explain it, he could just feel that someone needed him. Without another word he had loaded his bike and was off, bringing only his most loyal companions along on his aimless journey. He had felt drawn to this run down town sitting on the cusp of Michigan and Ohio, causing him to survey the area restlessly.
Dean had caught a whiff of something completely intoxicating as he passed a bus station just outside of the tiny district and the impact of it nearly made him wreck his hog. He’d parked and sniffed every inch of the damn terminal, even allowing the mouth-watering aroma to lead him down the street but he couldn’t place it. His nose led him around for hours as he desperately tried to follow the faint scent but it was no use. Whatever it had been must’ve been long gone by the time he had arrived, and Nick was forced to bare the brunt of his frustration.
“You can’t fucking smell that!?” Dean had roared at Nick furiously while inhaling lung-fulls of the air.
“I’m sorry, Alpha. I-” He didn’t give his Beta the chance to finish.
He continued to scold his second in command for having a shitty nose for a little while longer, even though he knew it wasn’t his fault. Dean had been born with an Alpha’s sense of smell, which meant he could smell things even in his human-form that no other wolf could pick up. It was a gift and a curse.
After he had reigned in his temper a bit, he had decided to give his loyal companions a small reprieve. They had been following him around senselessly for days and he guessed they would appreciate the small solace of cheap food and free booze. Hence, taking over this grimy dive in the middle of nowhere. And here they sat, listening to a drunk wolf sing karaoke to no music and the incessant chattering of Bobby trying to pick up some uninterested hooker.
“At least it smells good for once,” Dean muttered aloud, earning a questionable side-glance from Nick.
“Still smells like piss and cigarettes to me,” he muttered back.
It took Dean a few seconds to realize what he had just said. Of course he could smell the regular putrid stench that seemed to radiate from every bar, but there was something else that was causing his stomach to flutter. The scent of vanilla and lavender seemed to permeate from outside and fill the booths around him. He swore he could even recognize the faint scent of peanut butter if he focused hard enough!
What the hell? He thought to himself as the creaky door of the establishment was swung open. The delectable aroma filled the room and he spun around in his seat to get a better look at what was causing him to feel weak in his knees.
A girl stood at the entrance of the bar and the room fell silent. She couldn’t have been more than nineteen or twenty years old. She wore a backpack over her wobbly shoulders and a horrified look upon her dust-covered face. She stood there frozen in fear for what must’ve felt like an eternity before bolting into a nearby bathroom. A low growl vibrated from Nick’s chest as he started to step off of his stool.
“Cat,” he snarled, cluing Dean in on his true intentions.
“Don’t!” He barked, knowing that his Beta could never defy a direct order. “Everyone, leave her be.”
A few disappointed sighs sounded from his pack as Nick just stared at him in disbelief. Dean met his gaze head on, readying himself to strike if the wolf dared to challenge him. They sat in a dead lock for only a moment more before the Beta returned to his seat. Nick was an old wolf stuck in his ways, and he was probably pissed that he hadn’t been allowed to rip the poor girl to shreds like ‘nature’ intended.
If he was being honest with himself, the fact that the girl was Ailuran had completely gone unnoticed as Dean had been far too infatuated with her scent. It was her who had been drawing him to this shitty little town and he wanted to know why. He waited patiently for her to step out of the bathroom so he could get another look at her, but she never came.
Minutes passed like hours as he watched the door intently. His heart clenched as a broken sob echoed from the restroom. Each sniffle felt like a dagger in his chest as he fought the urge to run in and comfort the poor woman. He didn’t know why he cared so much, but her anguish was killing him. Without thinking, he looked around for someone he could send in to help.
“Sam,” he opened the mind-link to his least favored pack member. “Go in there and check on her.”
“What the hell? Why?!” The annoying little female whipped around to stare at him in disbelief.
Dean was growing impatient with the questionable glares that he was earning from his pack and let out a low warning growl at the woman. No matter how ridiculous his orders may have seemed, her disobedience would not be tolerated. He had never wanted the likes of such an argumentative brat in his inner circle and if it hadn’t been for Embry’s constant pleas to allow her in the pack she would’ve been gone a long time ago. The bitch needed to learn her place, and fast.
“I will not tell you again!” Dean boomed through the link, likely giving her a massive headache in the process.
“Okay! Sorry,” Sam winced before scurrying into the bathroom obediently.
She copped an attitude with the poor girl as soon as the door had closed behind her. He now regretted sending Sam into the restroom to comfort her since that woman didn’t have a consoling bone in her body! She had always been spiteful and rude, which was why he felt the need to be so aggressive with her. He wasn’t particularly fond of the wretched blond already and was losing patience with her quickly.
“Fix your fucking tone!” Dean snapped through their link.
He noted that the girl had looked like a runaway when she had entered the bar earlier and urged Sam to ask where she was headed, not that it was any of his business. Nonetheless, she finally did as he asked for once. He listened to the girl’s replies and learned that she had nowhere to go. Even with their distance, he could hear the pain in her voice and his heart broke for her.
“Tell her to get her stuff, she’s coming with us.” Dean ordered.
“You’ve got to be kidding,” Sam sneered back.
“Grab her shit and get her fed!” He snapped, having had enough of her attitude. “We leave in twenty minutes!”
“Yes, Alpha!” She replied with fake enthusiasm whilst informing the girl of her new living status.
Sam then stepped out of the restroom with the timid girl following close behind. They sat at one of the decrepit booths and waited patiently for their food as the rest of the pack stared at them in confusion.
“You can’t be serious,” Nick leaned in. “You know what she is.”
“I’ve made my decision, Beta.” Dean replied sternly.
“But she’s Ailuran!” Nick growled, his skin rippling slightly as proof that his wolf was dangerously close to surfacing.
“I don’t give a shit what she is,” he snarled at the man and his wolf. “She’s coming with us, end of story.”
“It’s a bad idea,” his Beta warned. “Don’t be surprised if your little pet gets mauled. Not all of us can control our wolves like you can.”
“Nothing is going to happen to her,” he rebuked the man’s threat with one of his own. “If anyone hurts her, I will personally rip them to shreds. Understood?”
“Over a cat,” Nick sneered.
“Over anyone that is under your Alpha’s protection!” Dean snapped before glancing back to be sure he hadn’t disturbed the woman.
She had received her food during their little quarrel and was munching away happily. He noticed that she would be finished soon and decided to continue their conversation via mind-link to avoid bothering her.
“I don’t know what your fucking problem is, but I’ve had enough of it.” Dean squirmed into his Beta’s thoughts. “She is coming with us, and I will be holding you personally responsible for her well-being from now on.”
“That’s bullshit!” Nick argued. “You can’t be serious!”
“I am one-hundred percent serious!” He replied. “As Beta of this pack, it is your job to keep her and everyone else safe.”
“I’m not guarding a fucking feline!” His Beta declared.
“Yes you will!” Dean commanded. “Nothing happens to her, Nick. Don’t punish your family for your stupidity.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?!” Nick met his gaze furiously.
“It means you have a wife and children that I graciously took in,” Dean reasoned. “Don’t be foolish enough to make me regret my decision. I’ve fed them, clothed them, housed them, and protected them happily. You should be grateful.”
“I am grateful.” Nick submitted. “I have been nothing but loyal to you. But what you’re asking is too damn much. Why the hell do you expect me to protect her? She’s just some stray.”
“So were you,” Dean reminded him. “Remember, you were nothing but a rogue begging on the streets for food before I came along! I should’ve skinned you alive when I caught you stealing from my pack, but I didn’t. What did I do?”
“You showed us mercy,” Nick sighed.
“Of course I did. I gave you food, shelter, I even fronted your daughter’s medical bills.” Dean snipped. “Now, I don’t expect you to be indebted to me for the rest of your life, but I do expect you to be a little more understanding when I show that same kindness to someone else.”
“I understand,” Nick assured him. “But it’s still a bad idea.”
“Well I disagree. I am doing for her as I did for you,” he stated flatly. “Know your place, Beta. Don’t make me put you there. Again.”
That seemed to be enough for the wolf as he shook his head and faced the bar, finishing off his drink with a final swig. Dean watched him for several moments before focusing his attention to study the girl in the booth. Her back was to him, but he could tell that she had tied her slick black hair into a tight knot under an old baseball cap. She seemed to be swallowed whole by an oversized denim jacket as she ate quietly. Something about her seemed so familiar, he couldn’t shake the feeling that they had met before.
The longer he sat there watching her, the harder it became to ignore the captivating feeling that overwhelmed him. He had this immense urge to hold her close and protect her, which was odd. Sure, he was a protective wolf by nature but this was different. Never before had he felt the need to shield anyone away from his own pack, especially not his inner circle. But something within him warned that even his closest allies couldn’t be trusted.
Dean turned to Nick once again, who was now turned to face the girl with a sharp grimace. His yellow eyes bore into the back of her head like a laser and it was evident that the wolf wasn’t just going to let go of his hatred for her kind. Over the years, Dean had witnessed his bloody return to the pack after taking a personal day every now and then. While he’d never asked what he had been up to, the pungent scent of ammonia laced blood secreting from his pores always gave away his deadly activities.
It was obvious that Nick couldn’t be trusted. While he seriously doubted that the man would do anything to put his family at risk, he still didn’t want to take any chances. He searched the room for someone he could rely on. Sam would’ve been his first choice since she’d already made contact with the werecat, but she was horrible at following orders. The omegas would be terrible choices, since they were foul-mouthed and weak.
That left Embry, his third in command. He recognized his man-bun from across the room and was pleased to see that he’d taken it upon himself to pry his men away from the walking STD in the corner. While he wouldn’t exactly have been his first choice, the longer he contemplated the idea the more it made sense. His Delta was already an incredibly flirty guy, so him following the girl around wouldn’t be viewed as suspicious to anyone. He was also incredibly strong, intuitive, and loyal. It also helped that he had been apart of Dean’s pack since the very beginning, making him his most trusted ally and closest friend at the moment.
“Embry,” he discreetly called out to him through the mind-link.
“Yeah boss?” He replied swiftly.
“I need you to keep an eye on the new girl,” Dean informed him. “Don’t let her out of your sight.”
“You don’t trust her?” Emrby’s brow furrowed from across the bar as he watched the girl curiously.
“It’s not her I don’t trust,” he admitted. “Make sure nothing happens to her. I need someone I can count on to keep her safe when I’m not around.”
“Oh, so you want me to be her personal bodyguard?” He replied excitedly.
“That’s not-” Dean tried to explain but the title had already gone to the wolf’s head.
“Officer Embry, at your service!” His Delta fixed his collar as he readied himself to head over. “Don’t worry, boss. Nobody breathes on her without me knowing.”
“I’m glad you’re taking this so seriously,” Dean sighed. “Keep this quiet. This stays between you and me, I don’t want you getting challenged for her.”
“Wait, I was joking.” Embry leaned against the wall with a grave look upon his face. “Is she really in that much trouble?”
“She’s a werecat in a bar full of wolves, what do you think?” He replied. “I’m trusting you with this because I know what you’re capable of, don’t fuck up.”
Without another word, his Delta nodded and made his way toward the booth. The girl had finished eating by now and Sam was attempting to start a conversation with her.
“I’m Sam, by the way.” The blond she-devil introduced herself with a fake grin. “What should we call you?”
“Tessa,” the girl replied shyly. “My names Tessa.”
Tessa, Dean repeated the name in his head as a flood of memories bombarded him. It can’t be!
He couldn’t see the woman’s face, but he could feel the pull of their faded imprint. Suddenly, the insatiable urge to protect her made sense. She was his first imprint! She was the first person he’d ever been willing to lay his life down for, and here she was. Eating a dinner he had paid for while bravely conversing with his wolves. This couldn’t be happening, the coincidence was too unreal.
Dean bolted out of the bar to avoid confronting her. He needed to know if it was really her or not, but how was he supposed to do that? He couldn’t exactly ask if she remembered cuddling up to a huge wolf when she was a kid now could he? His pack must’ve taken his sudden departure as their cue to leave since they all followed him out into the gravel parking lot. He loaded onto his bike, hoping that someone would take the girl back to the pack house without being asked.
Luck was not on his side it seemed as he heard three sets of footsteps approaching him. Sam and Embry led Tessa to his bike with large smirks plastered on their lips. The girl painted the cracked pavement with her eyes as she avoided his gaze, and upon closer inspection he decided that she very well could be Tessandra. She had large brown eyes and tiny hintings of sun-kissed freckles littered across her blushing cheeks. He was in total awe of her beauty.
“Here’s your stray!” The golden haired witch declared, interrupting his internal anxiety attack.
Without so much as a word of approval, she urged the poor girl onto the back of his bike. He could feel her frantic heartbeat pound against his spine as she did her best to avoid touching him. All he could do was drive and steal small glances at the woman through his side mirror every few minutes. She eventually caught him staring and they both avoided eye contact for the rest of the ride.
That night, he waited for the rest of the pack to settle down before entering the cramped cabin. Embry had opted to sleep on the floor next to her, calming Dean’s nerves. He was happy that there would at least be some type of barrier between Tessa and Nick. In hindsight, moving her into the same room with his Beta may not have been the best idea but it was too late to change it now.
Dean avoided sleeping in the pack house for the next few nights so he could clear his head. Having his first imprint in such a close vicinity to him was messing with his nerves and he needed to calm himself down.
After several weeks, Dean had finally gathered the nerve to speak to her during breakfast. Unfortunately, Tessa seemed completely mortified that he’d even addressed her and he decided to try again during the pack run. In the meantime, he ran out to attend to some ‘official pack business’.
His second in command followed obediently as he always did, and they continued their race against the sun. After a good thirty minutes of riding, Dean pulled to the side of the road and turned off his bike. Nick mimicked his actions and strode over to him, likely wondering what the hell they were doing out here.
“I need to talk to you,” Dean informed his Beta.
“I’m listening,” Nick replied coldly.
“I’m sick of the snide remarks you were adding during breakfast,” Dean snarled. “She is a part of this pack, so knock it off!”
“What? She can’t handle a little joke?” He smirked.
“It wasn’t a joke, and you know it!” Dean pointed at the man. “I mean it, knock it off! I have half a mind to ban you from the pack run tonight!”
“That’s bullshit!” Nick roared. “Over some prissy feline?!”
“This isn’t about her!” Dean snarled viciously. “This is about you and your shitty attitude!”
“Whatever,” His Beta rolled his eyes and started making his way toward his bike.
“No! Not whatever,” Dean barked. “I’ve had enough of it! You may not like her, but you sure as hell have to accept her. Now I expect that you and your wolf will be on your best behavior tonight, or else!”
“Or else what?!” Nick snapped back and glared at his furiously. “What? You’ll exile me and my family over some piece of ass?”
“I’ll do what I feel is necessary for the safety of ALL pack members.” Dean replied as he mounted his own bike.
“I see how it is,” Nick smirked. “Leah would be rolling in her grave if she heard-”
“Leave her out of this,” Dean warned.
“Play house with your little pet as much as you want,” his Beta snarled. “She’ll never be your mate, and she’ll never be our Luna!”
With that, he sped down the road and out of Dean’s sight. That hadn’t exactly gone the way he was expecting, and he was now left in a cloud of dust feeling more weary about tonight than he had before. Protecting his imprint was proving to be harder than he ever could've imagined.