Riding with the Pack

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Chapter 14

Dean

Dean rushed back to the pack house to help prepare for the full moon. After briefing his wolves on where they could and couldn’t roam during the night, he allowed his pack to enjoy themselves for the rest of the day.

As the sun faded beneath the horizon, Dean wondered when or if Nick would be returning. It wasn’t like his Beta to miss a pack run, leading him to believe that their argument from earlier must’ve stuck with him. Hell, it stuck with Dean.

No one had been stupid enough to bring up his failure as an Alpha before today. Hell, no one had brought her up in years. He couldn’t even stand to think about her for more than a moment, the pain still too unbearable. He desperately shook the thought away as he decided to sulk in his room for the rest of the evening.

He listened intently as the members of his inner circle filed out of the pack house one by one, filling the nearby woods with their joyous howls. The cabin fell silent for several minutes before the peculiar sound of a phone ringing caught his attention.

His ears perked up as he listened in to Tessa’s phone call, not really intending on eavesdropping but doing so nonetheless. He soon learned that she had called her dad and that she missed him terribly. Dean remembered her dad, Lucas.

He recalled the way he’d watched the man storm into the dark forest in search of his daughter, fighting against the ferocious rain that had pummeled his battered body. He thought back to how thankful the man had been when Dean saved his daughter, and how much he had fought his brother to keep him alive. Lucas was a good man, and a doting father from the sounds of their conversation.

Dean waited patiently for Tessa to wrap things up and noted that she avoided admitting that she had joined a pack of werewolves. That was probably smart, seeing as he doubted her family would appreciate her new living arrangements. Before long, he heard the girl bid her father farewell with a shallow promise of calling him again soon.

Tessa stepped into the living room and cleaned quietly as she thought no one was looking. When Dean left his room, he noticed that the entire cabin just looked cleaner than usual. He knew none of his companions would tidy up unless they were asked, so it must’ve been her doing.

“You know you don’t have to do all that,” he interrupted her meticulous picking. “We assign daily chores for a reason.”

“Alpha!” Tessa yelped as she spun around to stare at him. “I thought you went on the pack run.”

“I haven’t gone on one of those things in years,” Dean tried to play it off as he took a seat at the kitchen table.

“What a shame, everyone else made it sound really fun.” Tessa matched his little banter.

This is going well, he thought.

“You’re not missing much, trust me. It’s just a bunch of ass sniffing and humping.” He replied stupidly, dashing his cool-guy facade.

Ass sniffing and humping? Smooth move dipshit, he chastised himself.

“Sorry for sneaking in by the way, I didn’t mean to scare you. I was just trying to give you some time to finish your phone call.”

“Oh, no! You’re fine,” she gulped, clearly still afraid of him.

He now regretted allowing Sam to spend so much time with her. She had likely spun Tessa a tale of him being the big bad wolf from Hell, but that was only partly true. To Sam, he probably was as terrifying as she made him sound due to her being an unmovable thorn in his side, but he never planned to be that way with Tessa. She was already damaged and didn’t need him adding to her trauma.

She avoided his eyes and instead chose to study his physique. He followed her gaze, realizing pretty quickly that she had honed in on his exposed tattoos. He had decided to fill the empty skin with portraits of the moon, his wolf, and she-who-shall-not-be-named, many years ago. He hardly noticed the extensive art that riddled his body anymore and having someone stare at it so intently kind of made him uncomfortable.

What if she asks who they’re of? Dean panicked slightly and cleared his throat, catching her attention.

“Come sit,” he gestured to the chair across from him in hopes that she’d join him. “Let’s talk.”

Tessa scampered over to the open seat and watched his hands expectantly. He recognized that she was doing this as a sign of respect and quite honestly found it endearing, but completely unnecessary. She hadn’t submitted to him yet and therefore was not a full member of the pack, rendering this little show useless.

“You can look me in the eye,” he chuckled. “I won’t bite. Scouts honor.”

She peeked up at him sheepishly and giggled when he lifted his right hand in a mock vow. He gave her his kindest smile, which she mimicked instinctively.

Oh, how she had grown.

He still couldn’t believe it was her. He didn’t understand how he had found her, or how she had found him rather, after all these years. It felt like a lifetime since he’d rescued that sweet little girl in the woods, and he still bore the scars of that fateful night.

He had been a child then, too afraid to accept his birthright. That cowardice nearly cost him his life, but it would have been worth it. Being able to see the woman that his very first imprint had grown into today was more than he ever could’ve asked for.

Still, the twelve years that they had spent apart seemed to have done wonders for her. She had grown so much since their little encounter in the forest. Her long ebony locks that had once been tied into loose pigtails now fell in luscious waves around her petite face. Her cheeks still adorned the faded markings of freckles and she seemed to have lost her infatuation for the color red.

Her large doe eyes remained as mesmerizing as ever, yet even they had matured. Each time he dared to glance into her chocolaty orbs she seemed to draw him in, enticing him to explore them further. He wanted nothing more than to thoroughly traverse every intriguing thought that lay behind those magical globes.

Truth be told, he never thought he’d see her again. Hell, after her father shot him he never thought he’d see anything again. Thankfully, the bullets he used must’ve been cheap as they were only coated in silver. If they had been pure, he likely wouldn’t be sitting here.

He realized that he had been staring at her for far too long and was probably making her uncomfortable. She must’ve noticed the same thing as she broke eye contact and faced his boots.

“Sorry, Alpha.” She mumbled. The word sounded foreign as it fell from his lips, he didn’t like the fear the laced her words.

“Please, it’s just us. Call me Dean,” he introduced himself calmly.

This seemed to take her back quite a bit as she glanced up at him in utter shock.

“Dean?” Tessa repeated. “That’s a nice name.”

“Thank you, it was my father’s.” he replied awkwardly. “It was also my grandfather’s and my great grandfather’s. Originality is not my family’s strong suit, I suppose.”

Oh, yes. Tell her your entire life story while you’re at it, idiot!

“Hey, at least it’s not super outdated. You could’ve been stuck with some old guy name like Bernard or Eugene.” She joked.

“Thank the Goddess for that!” Dean snorted.

They both chuckled for a while before falling into an uncomfortable silence. Dean couldn’t understand why this was so difficult. He had so many questions to ask her, so many things he wanted to say to her. He had been planning this conversation in his head since her arrival, yet he still struggled to string together a comprehensive sentence when she was near.

Get it together! He snapped at himself as he watched her intently.

She moved a lock of hair behind her tiny ear and Dean suddenly had the urge to touch it. Forcing his hand to remain on the table, he admired her outfit silently. She wore an oversized denim jacket and leggings, likely wishing to be comfortable while the pack was away. As he examined her tight crop-top, he soon realized that her eyes weren’t the only thing that had ‘matured’ and his face burned in embarrassment.

Just keep staring at her tits, because that’s not weird. IDIOT!

“That’s um,” he cleared his throat and attempted to change the subject. “That’s a cool jacket.”

“Oh! Thanks,” she looked down at the faded garment and smiled slightly. “It’s my dad’s. He gave it to me before I left.”

“Well, it looks very nice on you.” He sounded like a pervy old man complimenting some poor girl at a bar.

They fell silent once again and Dean cursed himself for being so bad with words. This shouldn’t be so hard! He already knew her! Why couldn’t he fucking act like it?

“So, how’s your dad?” He blurted.

“He’s fine,” Tessa answered skeptically. “Why do you ask?”

Idiot! Um, yeah about that. See, we met in a cave when you were seven. Remember? You told me you loved me because you thought I was a fucking wolf and when you fell asleep, I carried you to your parents and they shot me.

That would go well, surely.

Dean floundered for words for a few moments before doing his best at covering up his little slip of the tongue. The last thing he needed was to scare her off by admitting that!

“Oh! Right,” he began, searching the room for a lifeline. “I, um. I couldn’t help but to overhear your phone call earlier.”

And now I’m creepy. Fan-fucking-tastic!

“Not that I was eavesdropping!” Dean clarified. “It’s just, well this pack house is really small and werewolf hearing. Sorry, I couldn’t block it out if I tried.”

He chuckled nervously and hoped that he hadn’t managed to ruin things with her. He really did enjoy having her in the pack and he wasn’t ready to release his first imprint just yet. She stared at him with wide eyes for a few moments before burying her head in her hands.

“Oh my God, I am so sorry!” She apologized and respectfully avoided eye-contact. “That totally makes sense, I should’ve thought of that. As if I have any right to question you in your own cabin in the first place! I am so so sorry!”

“It’s really alright,” he tried to soothe. “It was a strange question for me to ask either way. I may own the cabin, but I don’t own you. You don’t have to tell me anything if you don’t want to and I really should’ve thought twice before asking.”

They had a small quarrel about who was more sorry for a few more minutes before falling into another uncomfortable silence. It was clear that Dean’s reputation had preceded him as Tessa seemed to be scared shitless. This wasn’t fair, he just wanted a re-do!

“This isn’t working,” he admitted, catching her off-guard. “I clearly can’t have an intelligent conversation to save my life so why don’t you talk?”

“I thought you were doing pretty well until the end,” Tessa snorted. “But I can talk if you’d like. What do you want to know?”

“Well, I usually take a little time to get to know my new pack members,” he lied. He’d never done this with anyone in his entire life. “Why don’t you tell me a little bit about yourself.”

Great, now it sounds like I’m interviewing her.

“Oh, okay! Well,” she thought about her answer for a moment before giving him a run down of her life. “My names Tessa Davis and I’m nineteen. I like long walks on the beach and sitting in trees, other than that I’m pretty boring honestly.”

Her little description of herself was absolutely adorable.

“I don’t find you boring,” Dean assured her, causing her to blush. “If you don’t mind me asking, what were you doing at a bar full of werewolves in the middle of nowhere?”

“First of all, I didn’t smell you guys until I walked in!” Tessa chortled. “Not that you guys stink or anything!”

“I get it,” he soothed as she had begun to blush once again. “Please, continue.”

“Well, it’s kind of a long story,” she blurted. “The short version is some girl at a bus station robbed me and then I got lost.”

“What’s the long version?” Dean asked cautiously, not wanting to stir up any bad memories.

“Oof, now that’s a different story.” Tessa leaned back in her seat. “How much time do you have?”

“For you, I have all the time in the world.” He patted himself on the back internally at his smooth reply.

“Oh, okay then.” Her freckled cheeks burned crimson before she continued. “Well, I guess I should start with my family. I have three dads.”

“Three?” Dean clarified, vaguely remembering this information.

“Yes three, and they’re brothers.” She assured him. “So polygamous relationships are considered normal for Ailuran families because of multiple children being so common.”

Dean nodded to show that he was following along as she continued to explain.

“Okay, so my dads are triplets.” She informed. “That means that they all have to share the same true-mate, since they shared the same birth date. It’s some weird thing about their souls being bound eternally or something but anyways. The oldest of the litter is usually the one that picks the mate. In my dad’s litter, the oldest was Ryan and he chose my mom right after he graduated college.”

“How did he choose her?” Dean asked, genuinely invested in her explanation now.

“Well, werecats can only recognize their true mate when they’re um, mating.” She cringed. “So basically the oldest out of each litter goes around sleeping with every cat that they can get into bed until they feel the urge to mark them.”

“Mark them?” He asked.

“Yeah, we have this special hormone that we release through our fangs once we’ve found our mate.” She revealed one of her sharp canines and continued. “But you can only release it once so it has to be with someone special. Most cats won’t even get the urge unless it’s with their ‘soulmate’. Once someone is marked by one of us, it’s permanent. You’ll smell like your mate forever after that.”

“That’s interesting,” he spoke his thoughts out loud. “With Lycans, we mark aggressively to show off that we’re taken. Your kind release a scent?”

“Yeah, our fangs are small so we don’t usually leave much of a scar.” Tessa explained. “But we do release a shit ton of our mating hormone once we’ve found the one. When my sister came home, it smelled like she was doused in it. I knew the guy’s scent before I even met him.”

“If your sister found her mate, wouldn’t that make him your mate too?” Dean asked before thinking. “Well, if you guys are twins.”

“Actually, my sisters and I are triplets like our dads.” She grimaced. “We all share the same mom, and have our own biological father. So, yes. My sister’s mate should’ve been my true-mate as well. I ran away before he had the chance to mark me.”

“If you don’t mind me asking,” he tried to be sensitive to the situation. “Why?”

“He wasn’t exactly what I thought a mate would be,” she tried to avoid the real answer as she clutched her forearm.

Dean hadn’t said anything, but he had noticed the fresh scars beneath her jacket. As an Alpha, it wasn’t any of his damn business. But as a man that had imprinted on her, he needed to know what happened and who to kill, pronto.

“He didn’t have anything to do with those nasty scars, did he?” Dean pushed, hoping she wouldn’t take offense to how nosy he was being.

“Good eye,” she complimented sarcastically. “Yeah, actually he did. I only knew him for a couple of weeks and he showed his true colors pretty fast.”

“Is that why you ran?” He ground his teeth together.

“That, and the fact that my family was basically forcing me to marry him.” Tessa replied as she stared off into the distance. “I mean, the guy was an abusive asshole and I told my sisters about it. They just didn’t care, so I ran. On my wedding day.”

“Where is he?” Dean questioned, revealing more of his anger than he had meant to.

He wanted to rip that piece of shit’s head from his shoulders.

“Probably in Hawaii, enjoying some weird honeymoon with my sisters.” She rolled her eyes before noticing Dean’s face.

He probably looked furious, because he was.

“Hey,” she reached out to him hesitantly. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” he lied. “He just doesn’t deserve to continue breathing, and if I find him he won’t. That’s all.”

“Whoa, I’m all for breaking the kid’s kneecaps.” Tessa tried to calm him. “But at the end of the day, my sisters are in love with the guy. If I wanted him dead I would’ve told my dad about it, but I could never do anything that would hurt my sisters. They deserve to be happy, even if I’m not.”

“You deserve happiness, Tessa.” Dean softened. “You deserve love and to feel safe.”

Even after all of the pain her family had caused her, she still remained loyal to them. What a saint.

“Well, I feel safe here.” She admitted. “I know I probably shouldn’t since you guys could literally tear me apart without blinking but, I do. Especially right now.”

“So long as you choose to be here, I will never let anything happen to you.” He vowed, feeling overjoyed that his imprint felt safe in his company.

“Thank you,” she smiled. “That means a lot, and thanks again for taking me in. I know this place is only temporary, but I’m still so grateful that you’ve taken care of me for this long.”

“Don’t mention it,” he waved her off. “While this outpost may be temporary, your place in this pack doesn’t have to be. You are free to stay if you’d like.”

She stared up at him in amazement for several seconds. Her wide eyes searched his face for any hint of deceit as her mouth hung open.

“Are you serious?” She whispered in total shock.

“Of course I am,” he assured her.

“Oh my God, thank you!” Tears threatened to fall from her eyes as she hugged herself tightly. “I have been trying to figure out where I was going to go for days now. I had nowhere, no one to go to. I have nothing. I thought you’d get sick of me eventually and kick me out for sure!”

“You have proved yourself more than anyone else here,” he informed her honestly. “It would be an honor to have you join my pack.”

“Oh, Dean thank you so much!” Tessa cried out excitedly. “How can I ever repay you? I could start pulling my own weight when it comes to hunting! Oh, and I can cook too! I know Dawn’s probably sick of making all of the meals by now. I can definitely clean! Oh, I can clean right now! I’ll just-”

“Your company is plenty,” he attempted to calm her as she was bouncing around like a schoolgirl. “Just sitting here talking is more than enough for me, you have no idea how many nights I’ve sat alone during a pack run.”

“Well, in that case. I have all night!” She grinned giddily at him. “I’m all yours, Alpha Dean. Please, talk away.”

He enjoyed the little banter that they had developed in such a short time, and hoped that they would have many more nights like this one. His first imprint had grown into a very special woman and he found her to be absolutely delightful.

They continued to talk for hours about the good and the bad. She opened up about what her former mate had done to her and some of the turmoils she had faced as a child. He wished he could’ve been there to protect her, but he could only take a small comfort in knowing that he was here now.

Their conversation wasn’t merely grim, however. She also told him about some of her favorite memories which included spending time with her dad and wrestling with her sister Grace, who had apparently helped her escape. Tessa even mentioned meeting a peculiar green-eyed wolf in the woods when she was younger, although her parents had tried to convince her that she had been dreaming.

Either way, Dean was just glad that she considered their little rendezvous to be a happy memory. He hung on every word she said and even felt prompted to tell her about his father’s passing. She had remained very understanding, and even seemed to try consoling him.

She’s fucking amazing, he thought to himself as he watched her babble on about her life.

At that moment, he caught himself thanking his lucky stars that he had run across her so many years ago. He now considered joining her in that tiny cave to be one of the best decisions he had ever made in his entire life.

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