Riding with the Pack

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Chapter 18

Dean

“I’ll be available to discuss more of the treaty in a few days,” Dean replied while pinching the bridge of his nose in annoyance.

“A few days?!” The Alpha snapped from the other end of his cellphone. “Certainly you could do better than that!”

“I really can’t,” he denied. “I’ll call you when I return to my pack. Try not to get yourself killed in the meantime.”

“If I find you I’ll hang your skull on my mantel! I swear to the Goddess!” The man shouted. “I should skin your wolf alive!”

Good luck finding him

Dean didn’t take the man’s outburst to heart. He and Atticus had been close friends since they were pups and he knew that he had a temper. While his childhood playmate may have built a reputation for himself in recent years, Dean didn’t fear him.

“Yeah yeah,” Dean mocked. “Save the show for someone that gives a shit. Tell your sisters I wish them well, I’ll call you in a week.”

“A WEEK?!” He snarled.

“Bye, Atticus!” Dean chuckled.

“That’s Alpha Atticus to you, mutt!” His friend huffed.

“Don’t push it,” Dean warned. “Or I might ‘forget’ to send your pack this month’s shipment of crops.”

“You wouldn’t,” Atticus growled.

“Try me,” he challenged.

The line went silent for a few moments before a loud sigh sounded. They both knew that their alliance was completely necessary for the survival of both of their packs. They couldn’t afford another falling out.

“I’ll call you in six days,” Atticus vowed. “And you better fucking answer!”

“We’ll see,” Dean smiled. “Later buddy. Safe travel.”

“You too,” he sneered before hanging up.

With that the call disconnected and Dean shoved his phone into the pocket of his faded black jeans. He hated that damn device, it only rang when somebody needed something from him.

Like today. Atticus called him at the crack of dawn to go over some minuscule details of their pack’s peace treaty. Was it insanely important? No. Did it need to be dealt with at that exact moment? No. Did he even bother asking Dean how he was doing? No!

But that was the Alpha’s way. He’d set his mind to something and wouldn’t be pleased until it was taken care of. Dean loved Atticus like a brother, but at times the son of a bitch drove him nuts.

Good thing he lives so far away, he thought to himself. The last thing I need is him breathing down my neck like when we were kids.

Dean’s parents took Atticus and his sisters in when they were young. They were purebred Lycans from some super classy pack in Ontario. A group of vamps slaughtered their parents, leaving them with nothing and no one.

Dean’s father had been good friends with Atticus’s dad, so it was like second nature to take in his pups. Dean and Atticus became fast friends, doing everything together while his sisters spent most of their time following around his mother.

They grew up to be complete bitches, just like mom.

By the time Dean’s dad was killed, Atticus had moved back to his father’s land to reclaim his spot as Alpha. He watched as his adopted brother became a ruthless leader, feared and respected by every pack in North America.

He watched his once fun loving friend grow cold and bitter. Atticus had become extremely paranoid and hateful in recent years, especially since losing his mate. While Dean hated comparing himself to such a vicious ruler, he couldn’t help but relate.

Unfortunately, he knew that pain all too well.

Shaking the thought away as he often did, he jumped onto his bike and rode off. He’d been gathering some last minute supplies to take with him back to the main pack. He smiled at the thought of telling his wolves that they were going home. He got a kick out of their reactions. He knew that they enjoyed being on the road, but they were likely missing their families by now.

Having them out for so long was a rarity. He did his best to avoid staying away for more than a month, but with the second full moon rising tonight he was kicking himself for not heading back sooner.

But he had to be sure he could trust Tessa first.

He had spent the last two months watching her carefully, finding it difficult to ignore their bond. He’d pretend to leave the pack daily, only to return on foot to secretly study her.

He listened in to every phone call she made to her dad that she very obviously missed. She mentioned Embry and Sam a few times, but never told him that they were Lycan. She even allowed Embry to speak to her father a few times, which was usually hilarious.

Thankfully, her relationship with Embry seemed to be totally platonic. Dean wasn’t too fond of how touchy his Delta was, but he knew he had no right to be jealous. She was his first imprint, not his property.

He’d been completely shocked at how Tessa had handled Sam in the woods a couple of days ago. Dean stayed close enough to jump in if things took a turn for the worse, being sure that Sam would attack her at any moment. But he was wrong. Tessa held her ground beautifully and the girls ended up walking out arm in arm.

With all the time he’d spent eyeing the woman from afar, it became almost impossible to deny her charm. Even when she didn’t know he was watching, she still managed to make everything she did seem effortless.

The way she flipped her long black hair over her shoulder habitually was enough to make Dean weak in his knees. The scent of her vanilla scented shampoo mixed with the aroma of lavender that seemed to radiate from her pores was simply intoxicating. He couldn’t get enough of her.

He prayed to the Goddess that he’d get the chance to speak with her again tonight during the pack run. The thought of actually being in the same room with her had his heart pounding out of his chest.

He knew he shouldn’t be this excited. The feelings he had for her were wrong. She wasn’t his true mate and he knew things would never work between them.

Tessa was young and had her entire life ahead of her, while Dean was nearing thirty. She probably didn’t even see him in that way. He was her boss after all, her Alpha. An Alpha needed a Luna.

He’d already found his Luna. He promised his love to her and only her, yet here he was smiling like an idiot at the thought of another woman. His mate would be ashamed.

He did his best to clear his mind and drove home. Maybe sneaking a few too many drinks at the bar wasn’t such a good idea. It was still morning.

I have a problem

The thought of being a closet alcoholic like his toxic mother made him sick. But with the stress of having thousands of lives relying on him along with his inescapable grief, that amber liquid had been the only thing pulling him out of bed for half a decade.

Dean woozily made it back to the patch of woods leading to the pack house and stopped. He wanted to try sobering up before going back.

Why bother? He wondered. Most of them already know. I’m not fooling anyone.

He was sure Nick knew, and he likely mentioned it to Dawn at some point. Embry could read Dean’s mood like a book, making it hard to lie to him. But unlike the other wolves in the pack, his Delta wasn’t a gossip. If Dean could confide in anyone, it’d be Embry.

The problem was, Dean didn’t feel the need to confide in anyone. He’d rather drown his feelings in booze.

He sat in the lengthy grass for a few hours, watching the beautiful colors of the sky fade from blue to a flurry of orange and pink.

“Alpha,” Nick reached out through the mind link. “The pack run will begin soon.”

“Almost there,” Dean replied. “I’m right around the corner. I’ll be there soon.”

He wasn’t sure what possessed him to lie. Dean just craved the tranquility that came with sitting alone in the woods at times. He hadn’t felt the rush of soil beneath his paws in years. He missed the coolness of wind as it whipped through his ebony fur and the heart warming sense of family that came when running with his pack beneath the full moon.

Get over it, he ordered myself.

Dean took a deep breath and mounted his bike, driving straight back to the cabin. He was hardly even buzzed at this point, one of the many perks of being a werewolf.

Everyone, including Tessa, was waiting patiently on the front porch for his arrival. His wolves were already dressed in loose clothing that would be easy to remove once they were ready to shift while Tessa wore a pair of faded jeans and a cropped T-shirt.

“Hey, boss!” Embry smiled. “Made it just in time to see us off!”

“Don’t go anywhere yet,” Dean ordered. “I have an announcement.”

“Dammit,” Sam muttered.

Dean glared at the mouthy she-wolf before turning to address the rest of his pack.

“We’re going home tomorrow,” he announced. “So I want you all back here bright and early to pack your shit. We head out by noon.”

His pack erupted into a frenzy of loud cheers and excited howls. He couldn’t contain the smile that broke across his face, he truly loved seeing his family so happy. Even Nick grinned widely at his mate, who had wrapped her arms around his waist tightly.

“Alright alright, that’s enough.” Dean smirked. “Now go have fun, the moons up!”

His pack gleefully ran into the woods in all directions, shucking their clothing as soon as they entered the tree line. He listened to their melodic howls and yips, envying their four legged freedom.

“That went well,” Tessa beamed from the front porch. “I’ve never seen them like that before.”

“They’re always like that when we go home,” he informed while ushering her into the cabin.

“It’s sweet,” she smiled.

Oh, that smile.

He watched her carefully as she skipped into the kitchen to prepare herself a sandwich. The nostalgic aroma of peanut butter mixing with her natural scent was giving him flashbacks to their first meeting. It was like they were huddled together in that soggy cave all over again.

“Want one?” Tessa asked sweetly.

“You don’t have to,” he chuckled.

“Well, I made you one anyway!” She giggled and handed him a plate. “It’s a peanut butter surprise.”

Oh. My. Goddess.

Dean’s stomach roared at the memory of his favorite buttery treat. He’d tried making the delicacy for himself in the many years since their night in the forest, but it never came out right. It was either too peanut buttery or he added too much cinnamon.

“Thank you,” Dean grinned widely while sitting at the wobbly kitchen table.

“You’re not even gonna ask what the surprise is?” Tessa raised a brow playfully as she sat across from him.

“Hm, let me guess.” Dean pretended to think long and hard before answering. “Cinnamon?”

“Cheater!” She laughed. “You totally smelled it or something!”

“The only thing I can smell is you,” he murmured honestly before realizing what he’d just said.

IDIOT!

“I hope that’s a good thing,” Tessa blushed.

“It is!” Dean assured her quickly. “You always smell like lavender and vanilla, which is great! You smell great!”

“Oh,” she bit her bottom lip nervously while tucking a lock of her soft black hair behind her ear. “Well in that case, thank you.”

Dean decided to shut his trap and eat, devouring every morsel in three bites. Tessa took her time, staring at her plate intently as she finished. She continued to poke at a few crumbs on the table before speaking.

“Can I ask you something?” She peered up at him shyly.

“Of course,” he answered quickly.

“Why do you guys keep the main pack a secret?” She inquired. “I understand wanting to keep the vampires away, but even when it’s just us no one talks about it.”

Dean had to admire her bravery for asking about such a sensitive subject. No one ever dared to question him the way she did.

“You want the truth?” Dean asked, earning an eager nod from the girl. “You can’t tell anyone.”

“What’s said during this meeting stays between us.” She lifted her right hand in a solemn vow, repeating what he had said to her during their time in the bar.

Damn she was fearless. Dean recalled walking into the pack house just in time to stop Nick and Sam from tearing her apart. Even though they were clearly in the wrong, she was more than willing to take the blame. The woman had the biggest set of balls in the entire pack, and he respected that.

“On a more serious note,” she continued. “I won’t say a word to anybody if you don’t want me to.”

“Very well,” Dean sighed. “I’m sure you’ve heard of our pack’s great migration by now,”

Dean already knew that Sam had told her about it a couple of days ago.

“Sam mentioned it,” Tessa nodded. “She didn’t tell me much though.”

“The vampire population has been growing rapidly lately,” he explained. “They’ve nearly doubled in the past fifty years or so.”

“I had no idea,” she uttered.

“Nobody did,” Dean scoffed. “Not until they invaded my father’s pack in Ohio twelve years ago. Hundreds of lives were lost, my dad’s included.”

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered while dropping her gaze to stare at the table. “I didn’t know that’s how he passed.”

“It was a long time ago,” he shrugged.

“What’d you do after he-?” She asked without finishing her thought.

“I ran,” Dean admitted shamefully. “Being my parent’s only child, it was my responsibility to take over as Alpha of the pack. But I wasn’t ready, I was only sixteen. So, I ran. I abandoned my pack and my father’s legacy.”

“You were a kid,” Tessa attempted to soothe him. “You can’t beat yourself up over that. Someone should’ve been there to help you, to guide you.”

“I still abandoned them,” Dean replied. “I made a mad dash for the Canadian border. I had a friend that was starting a pack in Ontario, but I never made it out of Michigan.”

“What happened?” She met his gaze.

“I got injured,” he replied. “Shot with a silver bullet, thought I was gonna die.”

Ryan didn’t seem too fond of our little rendezvous in the woods

“Oh my Goddess,” she gasped.

“No, really it was fine!” Dean smirked. “After I woke up in a puddle of my own blood, I met my wolf. He just popped into my head out of nowhere and started telling me what to do.”

“A little buddy inside your head,” Tessa smiled. “That’s how Embry explained it.”

“That’s exactly what it felt like,” he recalled. “He led me back to my home pack where my people were being slaughtered. More vamps had arrived after I left, killing innocent children.”

“Why?!” Tessa gasped loudly.

“They were searching for me,” Dean replied. “Their king thought killing me would break my people. As soon as I arrived they rallied behind me, it was a perilous battle but we managed.”

“Sounds horrible,” she muttered.

“It was,” Dean agreed. “War is never pretty. I allowed my wolf to lead our people to an empty plot of land in Indiana. It wouldn’t be safe staying in the same spot after that. It took a few years, but eventually the pack was able to rebuild and prosper.”

“So that was the great migration?” Tessa asked.

“No, that was the first migration.” Dean replied curtly. “The great migration was when we were forced into the U.P.”

Tessa nodded, acknowledging that she was listening and allowing him to continue uninterrupted.

“Our pack was compromised a few years ago,” he explained. “Isolated attacks were becoming more common and difficult to manage. After watching enough mothers cry over the graves of their dead sons, I decided change had to happen. I led my best warriors to new land I purchased in Michigan while Leah stayed back to watch over the rest of the pack.”

“Leah?” Her name in Tessa’s mouth sounded foreign to him.

You fucking idiot! Dean berated myself.

A flood of memories assaulted the backs of Dean’s eyelids as he took in a shaky breath. He’d never spoken about any of this before, yet somehow he felt compelled to explain himself to her.

Trust her, a voice deep within him assured.

He looked up and met the concerned doe eyes of his imprint. She had furrowed her perfectly shaped brows and gave him an encouraging smile. Even though they hardly knew each other, he felt like he’d known her his entire life. It was like their souls crossed at some point, long before their meeting in that cave.

“My mate,” Dean spoke quietly. “I left my mate alone to watch our pack in Indiana while I cleared a path for them through Michigan.”

“Oh,” Tessa breathed. “I didn’t know you had a mate.”

“I know,” he clenched his jaw. “That’s because I don’t anymore. Those fucking bloodsuckers waited for me to leave so they could attack. She was killed protecting our pack’s young.”

“I’m so sorry,” she choked out.

She took his large shaky hand into her frail palms, giving him the strength to continue.

“I sensed something was wrong right away and went back, but I was too late.” Dean shook his head. “I couldn’t get to her in time. When I arrived, she was a mutilated pile of flesh.”

“It wasn’t your fault,” Tessa sniffled with moisture pooling in her mocha eyes.

“It was,” he argued. “I should’ve been there. I shouldn’t have left her. I should’ve-!”

“It wasn’t your fault!” Tessa repeated while clutching his hand tighter. “It wasn’t.”

“My wolf tried to warn me,” he informed her. “I should’ve listened to him. Maybe he’d still be here if I had.”

“What happened to him?” She asked while rubbing his knuckles tenderly.

“Losing our mate was too much for him,” Dean whispered while holding back a flood of tears. “He died the moment we saw her laying there.”

Tessa pursed her lips into a thin line as she studied him. Dean’s stomach dropped to the floor. Goddess only knew what she must think of him.

What kind of a man admits to abandoning his pack twice? What kind of a man leaves his mate alone to die? What kind of a man can’t even save his own wolf? Dean penalized himself. I’m no man, and she knows it.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed while pulling his hand away from her. “I shouldn’t have said anything. I don’t know why I said anything, I’ve never talked about any of this and I just-.”

He couldn’t finish. His throat closed with emotion and he brought his hand up to hold his eyelids shut, hoping to hide a stray tear that had sprung loose. He heard Tessa push her chair out and step away from the table.

She probably can’t stand to be around me, he concluded. I’m not the man she thought I was. I’m a coward and weak.

Dean took in a sharp breath as she suddenly wrapped her tiny arms around his muscular frame, embracing him tightly from behind. She rested her head on his left shoulder and used his shirt to dry a few tears of her own.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered against his neck. “Oh Goddess, I’m so sorry.”

That little sentence was his undoing. His lip quivered slightly as he grabbed onto her forearm and leaned into her long ebony locks. He inhaled her scent deeply for a few moments while reveling in her comforting gesture.

He hadn’t had a damn hug in years.

Dean used their prolonged contact to channel some of her strength as he tried to desperately pull himself together. He didn’t release his hold on her until he was sure that his eyes were dry. She stayed in that position for a while longer, stroking his biceps with her feathery fingertips until all of the grief he’d been storing in his heart was washed away.

THUD!

They pulled away abruptly as something crashed against the front door of the tiny cabin. Dean immediately jumped to his feet and tossed Tessa behind him. She clutched his elbow nervously as they both stared at the thin wooden frame.

A low growl sounded from outside. One of Dean’s biggest fears were realized in that moment. Any member of his pack could be out there right now, ready to tear her to shreds. Their wolves haven’t accepted her yet, and if one got in here there’d be no way he could protect her.

Dean may be their Alpha, but without his wolf he had no way of communicating with the four-legged beasts. Loud scratching tore at the wood of the only barricade between them and a bloody mess.

“Go to my room,” he whispered. “Now!”

Tessa did as she was told, swinging his door open but yelping and falling backward instead of entering. Dean ran over to her, lifting her from the ground when he saw it.

Two yellow eyes were peering into his bedroom window.

“Nick,” Dean reached out through the mind link but there was no answer. “God dammit Nick! Stand down!”

Nothing. Dean’s pack couldn’t hear him when their wolves were in control. The sickening sound of continuous banging and splintering wood sounded from the front door as a vicious snarl vibrated the glass of his bedroom window.

“Bathroom!” Dean shouted while practically dragging Tessa and shoving her into the tub. “Don’t come out unless I say!”

“But what about-?!” She screamed.

“Stay!” Dean yelled at her.

He slammed the door and locked himself outside of it. He looked back just in time to see the front door fly off of the hinges. A set of wet snarling canines entered the cabin, followed by a pair of electric grey eyes that bore into his very soul.

Dean had no way of winning this fight. He knew he couldn’t protect her, but he’d rather die than lose someone else.

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