Moonstruck: Awakening

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Chapter 11

Fifteen minutes later, we pulled into a car park behind an industrial looking building. The area looked pretty deserted for early afternoon, which I found surprising. Maybe it was an area where the economy was struggling?

Once out of the car, I was ushered to a security door made up of thick steel bars. Clearly, whoever owned this building didn’t like uninvited visitors. James pressed a buzzer located just to the side of the door and lifted his face. Following his line of vision, I noticed a security camera fitted at an angle just above the door. Either James’ obnoxious personality wasn’t well known here, or he’d managed the amazing feat of making friends in spite of it. For whatever reason, his smug visage gained us entry. There was a click and an ongoing buzzing noise and Gabe grabbed the gate, pulling it open and motioning me inside.

The room looked like it was an industrial unit that had been converted. At one end there was a raised boxing ring, while the rest of the space was taken up by various weights and lifting equipment. Seriously, they had everything except those old-fashioned kettlebells that old-timey carnival folk used to lift and I couldn’t guarantee they didn’t have some of those hidden away in a closet.

To my left was a reception desk, a middle age man sitting behind it. Though he was bald, his head completely free of hair, it looked as if it were by choice rather than nature. Coming out from behind the counter, his weightlifter physique surprisingly light on his feet, he greeted Gabe and James like they were long lost friends. Doing that man hug thing, where they grip each other’s wrists in one hand, bump chests and thump each other on the back with the other.

“Wayne, my man, how’s it hanging?” James jovial greeting was loud and warm.

“James, you worthless, mangy dog. Lower than yours,” came the visually loaded reply. Ugh. Turning back to Gabe, Wayne used a slightly more formal tone. “Gabe, good to see you.” Glancing over at me, he raised both eyebrows. “And who do we have here,” the voice warmed with the beginning of charm.

Gabe stepped in front of me and I was pretty sure the friendly smile that had been on his face moments before had disappeared. Apparently, that simple move was enough to announce to the other man that I was off limits- when I stepped to the side to see what was going on, Wayne’s head was lowered and he was intently studying his feet. Nearly choking on the testosterone, I blew some loose hair out of my eyes, shook my head and stepped around my great hulking lover.

“Hi. I’m Emma. Nice to meet you.” Holding out my hand to shake his, I was only a little surprised when it was ignored in favor of a small bow. Sheesh, a tad too formal if anyone wanted my opinion.

“Emma, it’s a pleasure to meet you.” The other man managed to be polite, without looking me in the eye or acknowledging me in any other way. Raising my eyebrow at Gabe, he shrugged. Pretending as though he didn’t know exactly what was going on and wasn’t directly responsible for it.

“This is Wayne, owner of the gym,” he informed me. Turning back to Wayne he continued. “We were hoping to use the machines for a while. Will that interrupt any sessions you’ve got planned.”

“Nah, man, you’re all good,” said Wayne, loosening up a little. “Anything for the Alpha.”

“Thanks,” said Gabe and we started moving into the gym. Wow, if that kind of deferential distance was the norm for interaction with other pack members, I was going to quickly become anti-social. Then I recalled the last two interactions I’d had with other pack members and figured I should probably be glad my introduction to Wayne didn’t end with a stare down. It was going to take a while to adjust to the rules of engagement.

James clapped, rubbing his hands together and turned to address me. “Okay, so while we’re here we’re going to get a feel of where your strength is at and how it compares to a normal Lycan.” I couldn’t help but laugh at James’s words.

“What?”

“Sorry,” I snorted, trying to simmer down. “It’s just I’m pretty sure there’s nothing normal about you guys, so it was just a little weird to hear you say it.”

Gabe and James shot me flat stares and I ducked my head. Right, don’t make fun of the unnatural creatures who were offering me sanctuary.

“So anyway, as I was saying,” James continued pointedly. “Why don’t you just hop on this one and I’ll slowly increase the weights till we see where your line is. What we’re looking for is something that makes you strain, but not to the point of injury. Got it?”

“Sure,” I said, sitting myself down and the first machine. James stepped around behind the seat to where the weights were located. On either side of my head, there were padded bars that Gabe instructed me to rest my forearms against. With my arms out to my side as if I were surrendering, my forearms pressed against the bar, I was instructed to bring my arms in front of me, bringing the padded bars together until they met in front of my face.

“Okay, how’s that?”

“Pretty easy, have you got any weight on there?”

Returning my arms to the resting position, I heard a clinking sound as James changed the weight level behind me.

“Alright, try that.”

Squeezing my arms closed, there was a slight resistance, but still, nothing that made me strain.

“More.”

“Okay,” James drawled, sounding dubious.

We kept repeating the process until after about the sixth adjustment I could really start to feel the strain in my muscles when I brought my arms together, muscles flexing.

“I could probably go a bit more, but I’m definitely feeling it here,” I said after doing the exercise a couple of times.

“Hunh,” James grunted and I unhooked my arms and turned to look at him.

“What does that mean? What was that sound? Is that good?”

James just grunted at me again and moved to the next machine. And so we continued, around the circuit for the next hour and a half, James monosyllabic and having unspoken, ocular conversations with Gabe as they exchanged meaningful glances over my sweating head.

Finally, James deemed we were finished and I was glad for it, my muscles trembling with the strain I’d put them through.

“Alright. Spill it.” More than sick of the non-verbal communication going on between the men, I was ready to know just how much of a freak I was. Because judging by the guys reactions, there was clearly something else about me that meant I didn’t fit into their furry coalition.

“What are you talking-“ my glare cut off Gabe’s words and he sighed, then sat down on a bench across from me. “Alright, stop glaring,” he said in a weary voice. I tried to arrange my features into a less confrontational expression, but I was pretty sure I wasn’t too successful.

“Look, it’s not bad,” said James, from his place to my left, leaning against a leg machine. “Just different.” Still, his voice was somber, which was unusual for him, so I didn’t take comfort in his words.

“Okay, what is it? You guys have been exchanging speaking glances since we got here. Anyone watching would think you guys are in a meaningful relationship and were trying to figure out how to tell me about it.” My words were meant to be a joke, but then I thought about the hugging between them when we first got to the gym and the serious conversation I’d come across between them earlier in the day and paused for a moment. “You’re not, are you?” I asked dubiously

“What?!”

“No!”

The outrage in their voices was pretty funny and I contained my smile by bowing my head.

“Sorry,” I said, really not though. “So what is it then?”

“As I said, it’s not bad,” said James finally. “Just turns out you’re a tad stronger than most Lycans, is all.”

Neither of the men met meet my eyes as I looked between them. “Define most?”

Gabe and James exchanged their umpteenth glance of the day but didn’t elaborate.

“Come on, guys, what are we talking about? Am I stronger than just the lower half, the bottom of the pack? Am I stronger than, what, seventy-five percent of Lycans? Give me a baseline.” When they continued to avoid my gaze, an idea formed.

“Holy shit, am I stronger than you two?” A sense of awe and excitement flooded me at the thought. Being stronger than the two men would be epic.

“Not quite,” said Gabe finally.

“We’re considered the two strongest pack members, both physically and in power. If you really pushed, you could probably get up to par with us.

I took a moment to let that sink in. “So I’m stronger than Redneck?” The guys shared a confused look for a second before comprehension dawned.

“You really need to work on remembering names,” James chided gently.

Giving him a droll stare, I tilted my head. “Dude, I don’t even remember my own name. Everyone else’s name is not my highest priority at the moment.”

“Technically, in a lifting comp, you could probably beat Douglas. But in a fight with him? You still have a good chance of losing. He has training, experience, and skill. His reach alone would effectively level the playing field, but you add all three and he definitely outclasses you.” Gabe’s little pep talk truly sucked.

“Okay, so what does all this mean then? Now that we know I’m strong?”

“For now, nothing changes. You continue to train and we continue to look for the bastards that took you. We’ll be able to keep the status quo in the pack for a while, no need to force a confrontation yet. Not until you’re ready.” Gabe’s words sounded ominous and I didn’t ask what I needed to be ready for. I wasn’t sure I wanted to know the answer.

Life settled into a routine over the next two of weeks and I could almost believe it was what normal was supposed to be. You know, if normal included werewolves.

Gabe moved back into his room and we now shared it, enjoying each other every night, but both of us were careful not to talk about the massive elephant in the room, which was mainly the question of what were we to each other and what commitments were we willing to offer? We never really discussed our relationship at all, and that was okay by me.

James continued to train me during the day and I could tell I was improving. Okay, it was a slow process, but it was happening. I may have been nearly equal to James in strength, but he had me in skills, hands down. Still, there had been few times during our sparring sessions that I’d managed to sneak past his guard and pin him down, so I wasn’t completely useless.

Laura and I became good friends, hanging together at lunch and sometimes after dinner. I found out she was acting as a receptionist/secretary for Gabe at the moment, but as he was only a one-man operation and did his own accounts, there wasn’t a huge amount for her to do.

In the breaks I had away from James, we’d chat about everything and Laura quickly became my go-to person for all knowledge pertaining to Lycans. Sure, I could ask Gabe or James, but Laura was so non-judgemental, I felt I could ask her anything. One morning I’d caught the weather report, which led me to our conversation for that day.

“So,” I said way too casually.

“This whole moon thing. How does it work?” It was something that had been bothering me for a few days, the chirpy weather girl announcing the full moon that night finally prompted me to ask the question.

I already knew I was a freak, but so far, apart from those times I’d felt threatened, I hadn’t wolfed out in any way. Not that I was deluding myself into thinking that meant I was safe. My question was; what the hell was going to happen to me during the full moon? Was I going to turn into a wolf? Was I going to partially shift, just my fingers and eyes? Or was I going to shift into some nightmarish hybrid, half person, half wolf, all monster, with an insatiable bloodlust for innocent forest creatures?

“Myth,” said Laura, breaking into my increasingly morbid thoughts. Wait, what?

“Sorry, what was that?”

“It’s a myth,” Laura said calmly, before taking another bite of her sandwich. We were sitting on the back porch, enjoying the cool breeze blowing under the large awning overhead. But I was busy trying to sort out the jumble in my head and couldn’t appreciate the view.

“You mean there’s not going to be a bunch of werewolves running around the woods tonight?” I clarified.

“Well, yeah, probably. I mean, it’s kind of a tradition. It’s like how some flea markets operate on the first Sunday of every month; a lot of Lycans get together to run as a pack on the days of the full moon, but their change isn’t, like, tied to it or anything.”

“Huh. So why all the hoopla about the full moon, then?”

“Hmm?” Laura asked, sounding distracted. I followed her gaze to James, walking down to the tree line. He must’ve come from the dojo downstairs where I’d left him earlier. He was also, quite noticeably, shirtless. Track pants clung lovingly to, what even I had to agree, was a well-sculpted ass, hang low on his hips and left nothing to the imagination. I contemplated Laura. How long either of them would be able to continue to fight the attraction between them if they had to train together every day, the way I had to? Honestly, I’d been pressed up against or pinned by James’ body so many times, we were almost as intimate as Gabe and me. Not that I was tempted by James in any way, it wasn’t like that for either of us. Yeah, he was good-looking, but there was only one Lycan I was interested in. Maybe I should suggest Laura take some self-defense lessons. Then again, maybe I should just butt out.

James disappeared from view and I got Laura’s attention back. Looking at me with a blank expression, it was obvious she was trying desperately to remember what I’d just said.

“Hoopla?” I gave her a gentle verbal nudge.

“Huh? Oh, right, yeah, well it’s a really old tradition that developed kind of like Easter or Christmas, just without the religious aspect. No one knows for certain when Lycans first came into being, but it was a long, looong, time ago, somewhere in Europe we think. Anyway, meeting at the full moon just made sense. Not everyone back then was able to follow a calendar, so the full moon was an easy way to mark a meeting. Also, part of the meetings were held in their human forms, though they’d change to wolves to run. It was safer at night, less chance of being seen and the full moon provided light for when they were human. Just kind of evolved into a tradition.”

“Hmmm,” I said. “I’m not going to be getting any unpleasant surprises tonight?”

“Well, I can’t speak for everything. I mean, you are sleeping with my brother after all, who knows what might happen there. But if you’re referring to the possibility of you turning into a freakish, grotesque monster that you think you are then no, you’re fine,” she said cheerfully.

“Gee, thanks for your support,” was my waspish retort.

“Anytime friend!”

Authors Note:

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