“Hey, Georgiou said that we had up until the river as our spot, right?” Maggie, a wolfdog we had picked up in our brief stay in Newfoundland, said as we walked about the clearing the younger mid-ranking wolves had made about a week ago.
“Though, I’m not sure if he meant from the south or from the north,” she added, farrowing her thick brows as she poked at a hyperpigmented spot on her dark skin.
“Yes, he did say that, but I’m not sure what direction either,” I said, squinting as I tried to remember what exactly I had been told. When I had told Georgiou I wanted to move to the outskirts of town, he had mentioned that although packs weren’t there, solo coyote wolves or small families maintained some pockets of land, so I had to make sure not to edge into their territories if I didn’t want to cause unnecessary conflict.
Aside from Maggie, there was Peyton, a black-furred wolf, and Lagasneire, a French-Canadian wolf from Quebec. There were also a few mixed breed mutts with us that were on the other side of the clearing to check the trees. We were planning to build a storage house here, and maybe a few cabins for watchdog wolves since it was closer to territories owned by coyotes. We’ve been living in the woods for close to five months now and living in it meant realizing other things we needed over time.
We’d gotten tools and weapons from Georgiou’s pack, and we had made an alliance with another pseudo pack up by the country club. The main river ran through their territory, as well. I was still figuring out the logistics of getting water tanks so transporting water wouldn’t be difficult for us. The whole process of settling down was hard but I liked it. I had many wolves that I trusted to take up second and third in command roles, and even though we were all young, I knew that we had something great going on for us.
In the main city, there was a lot of talk about the Nova Scotia wolf, me, running a ‘proper’ pack, and because of that our numbers grew by maybe a half of a hundred over the course of five months. The new members were mostly homeless people that claimed they could help us set up in the middle of nowhere by virtue of living by themselves for months, and in some cases maybe years. The pack was numbered at about two hundred and fifty now. To see us grow in number both excited and worried me. I had to take care of a lot of people, but it had always been my life mission, so it overjoyed me simultaneously.
“I think I’ll go and confirm that,” I said, letting myself channel my wolf hearing as I squinted into the distance. A frown formed on my face when I could catch the sound of movements behind the trees. I stepped forward and heard whatever was hiding behind the trees step backward.
“Okay,” Maggie said, packing her curly hair up in a puffy bun before looking away from me after Peyton and Lagasneire started making their way towards the younger wolves.
I smiled, waving them off before walking towards the dense trees. It was dark because of the canopy the trees had made to shield the forest floor from the sun. I walked around for a bit, and after ten minutes of wandering through the thick woods, I started to think that maybe I had overreacted to the sound of a scared hare or something.
I hummed, wondering if I should just turn and leave, but a part of me wanted to see the riverbank and the other end. It stretched all the way from the overhead bridge in the city to somewhere towards the end of the state lines. I nibbled my lip, staring into the woods before deciding to keep going.
Wrong choice. Just at that moment something—no, someone—fell from above, startling me with a growl. I staggered, taking a few steps back as I re-evaluated my shock. My first instinct was to growl back, look up and ask the person who the fuck they thought I was, but when I looked up and held a gaze with the brown eyes that belonged to my attacker, my frown softened and my impulsive action to dominate was reversed. I gawked at him, feeling my chest tighten up and my wolf stir.
My wolf stirred, and my eyes went wide when I realized what this was—who this was.
My lips parted open, but I was too stunned to know what to say. The man looked a year or two older than me. He stood taller, and even though he was leaner you could tell that he worked out a lot. He was dark-skinned, but not as much as me.
Mixed race maybe? Black and Native American, not indigenous to Canada. My guess was based on the impression of him that I had gotten, that he was not a full werewolf. His defense stance was off, and he was alone, which was unheard of for wolves. He reminded me of Juliet, a coyote wolf in my pack. That was it. He acted like he was part-coyote. It would make sense. Around here, coyotes tended to be Native Americans that had fled into Canada after the Sitting Bull clash with the US army. Some went back to the USA after a while, and some stayed, making Canada their home.
I was still inspecting my mate when he opened his mouth and said, “Your stop’s here.”
I watched as he put the tip of his staff on the floor before drawing a faint line on the moist ground. “If any of you mutts cross this line, I’ll shoot you,” he said in a matter of fact tone before looking up at me with his deep brown eyes. I noted the keloid scar that ran up his arm and into the sleeve of his shirt, and I also noticed the bag he was carrying. It had a dead rabbit’s ears poking out of it.
Oh, he’s a hunter. I thought, letting myself inspect him again. He wasn’t smiling.
“I’m serious,” he said, frowning at me before pulling the wooden staff aside. I couldn’t say anything in response. My mouth wouldn’t move, so instead, I gawked at him as my wolf freaked out inside me.
This was our mate, standing tall and looking annoyed right in front of me.
“If you understand there’s no need to talk,” the man said, looking up at the canopy the branches of trees had made above us. “I’ll be going. I don’t come to the edge of my lane much, but if I sniff any of you wolves out, I’m going to shoot you. Don’t test me. I hope I’ve made myself clear.” He repeated his threat then took a few steps backward before turning around and disappearing into the woods.
I blinked, closing my mouth that had been open from shock.
“What just happened?” I asked myself in a low voice. I rubbed the back of my neck, frowning a bit as I recounted the incident. That man was my mate. I had felt it. He must have felt it too, right? Was he intentionally ignoring it? Had I just been rejected by proxy?
I felt a pang in my chest. My wolf didn’t like that idea.
I was still stunned when I walked back to the group of wolves I had left behind to chase after the man.
“Naylan?” Maggie called out to me when I didn’t say anything, I kept walking in the direction of our campsite.
“Our territory stops at the Maple trees,” I said, still moving. I knew that the other wolves seemed confused, but they didn’t question me and followed me after some understandable hesitation.
After a while, one of the wolves felt comfortable enough to talk. Some others joined them and soon they were having a conversation behind my back. Maggie walked up to stroll beside me. She didn’t say anything, but I knew that she had something on her mind. She wanted to ask me what happened back there, and why I had such a stunned look on my face.
On a normal day, if I felt one of my recruits wasn’t feeling well, I would have asked why. I would have cheered them up, and maybe also given them a speech about how the pack was their family, but I didn’t feel up to it today. My mind was flooded with thoughts of the man from the forest. I remember how angry and defensive he had looked even though he had stared me down with his staff and talk figure—he had been unsure, but not afraid. It was more like he was gauging me. The man was my mate. My wolf had stirred, so why had he ignored me? Coyotes had mates too. He should have been able to feel it. I hadn’t even learned his name.
I sighed, disappearing into my cabin when we got to the campsite. I needed time on my own away from the others to think about things.
To think about him.