Riding with the Pack

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Chapter 6


The next few days went by in a blur. After my little ‘episode’, everyone had decided to hold off on introducing me to our new mate for a bit. That didn’t stop my sisters from running off to spend as much time with him as possible though.

Every day there seemed to be one less person at the dinner table and it was driving our dads crazy. Monica had come home here and there while Grace tried to keep her discrepancies quiet when she snuck out each night to pay their new lover a visit. She finally left for good two nights ago without a word and hasn’t been back since.

My mother was convinced that it was only a matter of time before I would sneak out after dinner, never to be seen again. I, on the other hand, was not so sure. Honestly, the thought of meeting him made me sick to my stomach. I had no interest in getting to know him, let alone marry him.

I didn’t feel the same pull that my sisters did towards him and something deep down inside told me that I never would. My dad had tried to console me a bit during our morning talk yesterday but I wasn’t in the mood to listen.

I didn’t need to be told for the hundredth time that I would ‘probably like him if I gave him a chance’, when I knew that I very well might. It wasn’t him that bothered me per-say, but the idea of being stuck in a relationship with him and my sisters for the rest of my life. Having to share a bed, a house, children, and a husband on top of it was seriously overwhelming and messed up in my opinion.

I had been perched on one of the thick branches of my thinking tree in the backyard when I sensed a nearby presence. I looked around dumbfounded until I saw the familiar silhouettes of my sisters making their way toward me from the back porch.

I gave them a questioning look as they came closer, which was clearly ignored. They seemed giddy as they stood at the base of the tree and peered up at me. Grace scrunched her nose a bit and nervously twirled her hair into unruly knots as Monica spoke.

“Mind coming down for a sec?” She asked in an assertive tone that I didn’t appreciate.

Although her words were meant to be a question, they came out as more of an order.

“Actually, I would mind.” I snipped and flipped my long black hair over my shoulder.

“Come on, Tess.” Grace pleaded. “We just want to talk. Please come down. You can continue your owl impression as soon as we’re done. I promise.”

I rolled my eyes in annoyance as I skillfully followed the familiar branches on my short decent back to the ground. Once my bare feet were firmly planted on the cool grass, Grace and Monica took me by each arm and led us straight to the front yard.

We continued until we had reached Monica’s bright yellow SUV and Grace elegantly opened the door behind the passenger side for me. She then rounded the car and climbed into the back seat while Monica took the front.

No words were spoken as she started the car and began the long excursion toward the end of the driveway and onto the long dirt road that led away from our family home. As we passed the dusty trail and drove onto pavement, Monica began to speak.

“So, don’t get mad but-” She began but I immediately cut her off.

“But what?” I snapped and stared at her angrily.

Nothing good ever came from a sentence that started like that. ’Don’t get mad, but I read your diary.’ ’Don’t get mad, but I stole your favorite shirt and got a stain on it.’ ’Don’t get mad, but I scratched Ryan’s car and blamed it on you.’ I had heard that phrase countless times over the years and it was now officially the quickest way to piss me off.

“Calm down,” Grace soothed as she tried to caress my hand before I quickly snatched it away.

That girl could be a snake when she wanted to be and I didn’t trust her as far as I could throw her. She was a master in manipulation and I knew better than to trust her.

“We want you to meet Ethan!” Monica blurted before pursing her lips like she had just revealed some big secret that I wasn’t supposed to know.

“Mon!” Grace hissed, further confirming my suspicions that I wasn’t meant to know this quaint little detail.

“Who the hell is Ethan?” I inquired.

The two of them shared worried glances towards one another before Grace piped up. She inhaled sharply before speaking.

“He’s our mate,” she admitted sheepishly.

“Stop the car!” I snapped furiously.

I sure as hell wasn’t ready to meet this so called ‘mate’ of ours.

“Tess, listen.” Monica pleaded while merging onto the expressway, sufficiently trapping me into the car with them for the rest of the ride.

“No!” I fumed. “What part of ‘I don’t want to meet him,’ don’t you understand!”

“I know, but-!” Grace began.

“NO!” I yelled again.

“But he’s so sweet, Tessa!” Monica pleaded from the front seat.

“And charming!” Grace added.

“Not to mention he’s hot enough to melt metal,” Monica swooned, causing me to feel sick to my stomach.

“I said NO!” I screeched, causing them to stare at me wide eyed for a few moments.

“Just give him a chance to-” Monica began but I cut her off again.

“I don’t want to give him a chance to do anything!” I yelled past the lump that had begun to form in my throat. “I can’t believe you guys would even try to force me to meet him like this! Seriously?! What the hell is wrong with you two?!”

“We just thought that-” Grace began.

“No!” I snapped at her. “You didn’t think! You just did whatever the hell you wanted without even considering about how I might feel, just like you always do!”

“We didn’t mean to-,” Monica cried from the front seat but I was in no mood for her ‘feel sorry for me’ whiny bullshit.

“Fuck you, Monica!” I screeched angrily.

I sat back against the cool leather seat with my arms crossed firmly over my chest and demanded that she turn the car around at the next exit. We all rode in silence for a few minutes while I tried to calm myself down. My entire face burned a deep red and I felt ready to rip somebodies head off with my bare claws.

“I was scared too,” Grace spoke in barely a whisper next to me.

"I'm not in the mood, Grace!" I huffed.

“I was happy when Mon told us that she’d found him, but I was still scared. That’s why I held off on going to see him for a few days.” She admitted sheepishly.

While her words intrigued me, I still chose to ignore her and avoid eye contact. I wasn’t ready for a heart to heart, especially with Grace. She was the sneakiest out of all of my sisters and she could lie or cry in a blink.

She was a master of emotional warfare and I had been able to see through her little charade since we were kids, which is why I was so shocked that her confession seemed to be genuine. There wasn’t a hint of deception of her face when I looked at her. If anything, she seemed like she was almost reduced to tears.

“When I finally got up the nerve to go meet him, I thought I was going to throw up.” She recalled and let out a deep sigh before continuing. "My stomach was in knots and I almost ruined my makeup because I was sweating so much.”

I chuckled a bit at the thought of my sister’s perfectly blended concealer melting away in a river of perspiration.

“I know,” she giggled. “It sounds silly, but it’s true. I was really nervous. Until I met him, Tess. Talking to him just felt so natural and easy. He didn't care that I was acting like a complete bitch, and he even matched my sarcasm. I'm telling you it was fate."

“Oh, fate.” I sneered but she waved me off.

“This is serious!" Monica pressed. “It was like as soon as I saw him, I knew he was the one. I knew everything was going to be okay and that I belonged with him. Like we were soulmates.”

“You’ll see,” Grace breathed, clearly reminiscing about her first meeting with him.

Their words were hard to ignore. From the way they were describing him, I was beginning to imagine him as some walking work of art that was ready to swoop in and woo my troubles away.

The idea itself didn’t sound so bad, but I was a pessimist. I knew that what I was dreaming of was far too good to be true and that my sisters were likely exaggerating out of lust and primal infatuation. But that didn’t mean I stopped hoping that they were right.

“Mom and our dads are all going to be there too, if that helps.” Monica added before sending me a hopeful glance through the rear-view mirror.

“My dad?” I questioned.

Grace nodded next to me and I was thoroughly shocked.

“They took mom’s car and left a few minutes before we did. They should be there by now.” She added, sweetly.

My dad had been adamant that he had no interest in meeting any boy that my sisters or I involved ourselves with. I concluded that if my father was willing to actually meet this guy, he must consider him to be very special.

Or if nothing else, my mom had convinced him to ride along. Either way, if my dad could do it, I sure as hell could. I took in a deep calming breath while looking at each of my sisters for any last inkling of deceit before speaking.

“Fine,” I muttered with my shoulders hunched over. “I’ll meet him.”

“Wait, really?!” Monica squealed in front of me and I watched in amusement as Grace’s mouth fell agape at my side.

I simply nodded and gave a shy smile as they both lost their damn minds. They went on and on about the greatness of our mate for the rest of the trip while I stared nervously out of the window.

I sunk deeper into the comfortable leather of my sister's van and observed the hypnotically beautiful greenery as it rushed past us in a blur of glistening emerald and olive tones. The longer I stared, the heavier my eyes seemed to weigh and before long, I had lost the battle of consciousness and swiftly fell into the land of dreams.

I had been jolted awake by Grace minutes before we were to arrive at our mate’s home. I was surprised to see how swiftly the scenery had changed from the elemental leaves that surrounded us before to the solid grays and cold tones of the city.

A pit grew in my stomach at the sight of hundreds of people hurrying around the van in all different directions. I wasn’t exactly a fan of city life and the disgust that I was feeling must've been evident on my face as Grace chimed in quickly.

“I know, we hate it too. But Ethan said that he’s only staying here until he finishes this semester and then we can all start looking for a place closer to home.” Grace assured.

“Thank god, driving around all of these people gives me the heebie-geebies.” Monica said while adding an exaggerated shiver.

I giggled at my sister’s choice of words due to it sounding exactly like something our mom would say. My humor vanished swiftly as we pulled into a crowded parking lot behind a massive apartment building.

My nerves began to get the better of me and I felt as though I may have a full blown panic attack. I combed through my hair with shaky fingers as a wave of nausea nearly doubled me over. I couldn’t find the strength to speak until Monica had found a parking spot and everyone started filing out of the vehicle.

“I don’t think I can do this,” I mumbled as Grace opened my door and gestured for me to get out.

“You’ll be fine!” She cooed and yanked me into the vast parking lot.

I allowed her and Monica to lead me past numerous designer cars and toward a cream colored elevator with large silver doors that I timidly entered. Suddenly, my feet became very interesting as they seemed to be the only thing I could stare at as we were lifted higher and higher into the building.

Eventually a loud ding rang through the cramped space and the large sterling doors separated, revealing a lengthy hallway with white carpet and gold walls. At the end of the hall stood a man that didn’t seem at all surprised to see both of my sisters bolting toward him.

Monica was leaping with joy as she threw her arms around the man’s neck, followed by Grace aggressively shoving her aside to do the same.

I stepped out of the elevator cautiously and immediately regretted it. I felt immensely vulnerable without the shielding of the tiny space and turned to enter it once more, only to find that the metal doors had shut, leaving me to face this nightmare alone.

I took several deep breaths before gathering the courage to turn around, only to find the kind eyes of my father staring back at me. I smiled instantly and wrapped my arms around my blue-eyed savior as he consoled my high strung nerves.

“It’ll be fine,” he cooed against my hair. “If I can meet him, so can you.”

“I’m scared,” I spoke honestly as he released his hold on me a bit so that we were facing each other.

“I’ll walk with you then,” He smiled and pulled away fully.

I nodded and gripped my dad’s giant hand like a child as we slowly made our way down the never ending corridor. My sisters were still huddled around the stranger at the end, and our mom had appeared from an open door behind them that I assumed to be his home.

My hands began to sweat profusely as we stepped closer and my dad did his best to comfort me during our walk, reminding me to breathe and telling me not to worry. With my dad so close to me, I finally gathered enough courage to take a good look at my supposed ‘mate’.

He had fair skin that seemed to take on more of a reddish hue, and shaggy blonde hair that he styled into an overly gelled cow-lick. He gazed at me with cinnamon brown eyes and gave me a wide smile, revealing a set of perfectly straight teeth that were white enough to blind me if I stared for too long.

He wore a muted green v-neck with faded blue jeans and stylish running shoes that likely cost far too much. He wasn’t the largest man I’d ever seen, as he seemed to be only an inch or so taller than me and he didn’t have a considerable amount of muscles either, but his body seemed to be nicely toned nonetheless.

“Thought he’d be taller,” I blurted quietly, much to the dismay of my mom and sisters.

My dad snorted next to me as we came closer to the group.

“I know,” he whispered. “I almost called Santa to tell him that one of his elves got loose.”

He snickered and I didn’t bother holding in the laugh that erupted from my throat.

We finally approached the group and the smile that had been drawn across my face suddenly fell. When I looked at the man in front of me, I didn’t feel anything that told me that he was right for me whatsoever. I wasn't obsessed with the sight of him like I thought I’d be and I couldn't really imagine a future with him.

He seemed nice but there was just something off about him that I couldn’t seem to shake. I determined that I was probably thinking into things far too much and became distracted by the immense disappointment I felt at our first meeting.

The day we spent with him faded by quickly and before I knew it, my mom and dads were saying their goodbyes to Ethan and my sisters. When my dad attempted to kiss me farewell, I snapped out of my day-long fog.

I shook him off and met his eyes in utter confusion, as I didn’t understand why he would be saying goodbye to me. I wasn’t staying here with this stranger. I had barely paid any attention to a single thing the man said all day and I did not intend to spend the night with him.

“What are you doing? I’m coming with you.” I spoke to my dad with enough volume for my words to travel to everyone else that had filled the tiny apartment.

A few shocked gasps followed my proclamation but Ethan didn’t seem to mind my words one bit.

“That’s fine, I know we didn’t really get a chance to talk much today.” He spoke to me sweetly while staring directly into my eyes. “Maybe we could go out tomorrow and spend some more time together, ya know, just the two of us. If that’s okay with you.”

“She’d love to!” Monica butted in before I could speak and I just glared at her.

“Tessa?” Ethan smiled at Monica before turning his attention to me once again. “Would you like to go out with me tomorrow?”

“Um, sure.” I answered quickly before I lost my nerve.

“Great! It’s a date,” he promised excitedly and stepped forward with his arms wide. “I’ll be over to pick you up at around seven.”

He closed the distance between us and attempted to give me a hug.

“Not a hugger!” I quipped as I put my hand against his chest and pushed him back slightly. “Sorry! I just don’t know you very well. Um, I also think I’d like to drive myself. Maybe I could meet you somewhere.”

“Oh! Um, sure. Yeah, okay,” he mumbled as he stepped away, clearly disappointed. “Hey, I get it. We’ll get to know each other a lot better tomorrow, I promise.”

I cringed as we worked out a few minor details of our 'date' and before long I was waving him and my sisters goodbye. I quickly made my way down the long hallway and into the elevator with my parents. Once we were all inside of my mom’s car, she and Gavin spoke amongst themselves in the front seat while I sat in the back with my dad.

Ryan had decided to drive Monica’s car since Ethan had offered to bring the girls home tomorrow when we'd meet up for our date. I leaned against my dad’s shoulder and tried to ignore my mother’s lecture about me being rude and unladylike.

Eventually, the car conversations were drowned out by the blissful sound of the Beastie Boys echoing through the radio and I finally allowed myself to be lulled to sleep.

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