Knowing he was near was comforting. I wanted to wake up. My body was no longer sore, I felt normal. No, actually I felt stronger. I stretched my stiff limbs and opened my eyes. Zeke gave my hand a squeeze. “Hey, baby girl. How you feeling?” I looked around to what had to be a hospital room. “What happened to me?” I was in a hospital gown. Zeke tossed my backpack on my lap. “I brought you some clothes. Get dressed and come out. We have a lot to talk about.” He left the room.
I got dressed and threw my backpack over my shoulder. I walked out of the room to find Zeke leaning against the wall with his arms crossed. He was looking down like he was in deep thought. I could tell he was nervous about something. “Am I sick or something? I feel fine.” He looked up at me and half smiled. “No baby girl, you’re not sick. You’re actually healthy as can be.” He started walking, knowing I would follow.
He led me down a short hall and past a small counter. He opened the double door and the fresh scent of the mountain struck me straight in the nose. It was refreshing and invigorating. I breathed deeply, letting the freshness fill me to the core. It was still early morning, the sun was just beginning to rise. “What do you remember from last night, before you blacked out?” He led me to a wooden bench not far from the doors we just exited. I sat down next to him. “Pain, a lot of pain. It felt like my body was being torn apart from the inside out.”
He nodded. “That, baby girl, is pretty much what happened. You shifted for the first time. It won’t hurt again, it’s only the first shift.” What was he talking about? Shifted? What did that even mean? “You, my dear, are a werewolf, actually we are.” I chuckled at Zeke. And shook my head. The look he gave me told me he wasn’t joking. My smile fell. “Werewolves aren’t real. And if they are, wouldn’t I know about them since you say I am one?”
“You grew up human. I knew what you were the second you walked into my diner. That’s why I wanted you to stay with me. I know it sounds far-fetched, but hear me out and then think it through.” I nodded, allowing him to continue. “Werewolves first shift at 18. Well, most of us. Most are raised in their pack and already know what to expect. You were alone. I'm so sorry you didn’t know what to expect. I wanted to tell you, but Alpha told me I could only tell you if you came to pack lands. You never came here before, so I couldn’t say anything.”
I looked around me. There were cabins and houses situated here and there around the hospital. I could tell there was more to the territory. It looked to be a quaint little village. “Alpha? He’s a werewolf too?” Zeke chuckled. “Alpha is the head honcho here. He’s allowing you to become part of the pack.” He looked to my necklace. “That’s why he gave you that. Pack members can come and go as they please. Rogues, like you, need permission to enter our territory. That’s his way of saying welcome.” I began to fiddle with my necklace while he continued. “Alpha is his title. He and his Luna are the leaders. His name is actually Ruben Crescent Moon. Of course that’s his alpha name.”
I shook my head and motioned for him to stop. He lost me with that one. “Wait, why isn’t that his real name?” “Most Alphas change their surname to match the pack. It’s an old tradition. We’re the Battle Mountain Crescent Ridge pack.” I nodded my understanding. “I’m his Beta, his second in command.”
“How can you be second in command if you’re always at the diner?” He worked a lot, usually on my shifts, except Sunday. “My job is the safety and security of the pack. I do my job in my off time too. When you came along, I stayed around the diner more so I could be sure to protect you. You were just a kid with nowhere to go. You didn’t even know about werewolves. Now that you’re of age, I can return to my usual duties. It would be safest if you stayed in pack territory, until you get control of your wolf. If you were to be hurt or angry, you could shift without meaning to.”
This was all too much. Zeke was serious, though. He wouldn’t lie to me or try to play a joke on me, that much I knew. I always trusted Zeke, why would that change now? “So what happens to me now?” He put his arm around my shoulders. “That all depends on you, baby girl. You’re welcome at my place, or you can go to the pack house. My kids are already dying to meet you. Either way, I’m barbecuing tonight. I told you I would.” The thought of grilled meat made me salivate. My stomach began to growl.
Zeke chuckled “Come on, let’s feed you.”
The door opened up to a big sitting room with a sectional, a bookshelf, and an entertainment center. Grey wooden floors lead us through to the kitchen, which was again huge. His appliances were top of the line and all black. The wooden cabinets were cherry red with black handles. The countertops were a gray color that matched the floor. It would’ve been dark, but the windows allowed light to flow in perfectly. It was beautiful.
He sat me at his kitchen island and began making pancakes. He threw a stack in front of me with some milk. I dug in. Zeke makes the best pancakes.
“That’s right. I had a social worker that drank stale coffee throughout the day. She always had the nastiest coffee breath.” Gina scrunched her face. “I can understand that. Well, you’re welcome to anything you want. If you need anything, don’t hesitate to ask anyone of us. The kids know about you too. They’re looking forward to meeting you. Speaking of, I think I hear them starting to get up.”
I listened. I heard a shower going and some shuffling around and drawers closing. Just then I began to get really nervous. Soft foot steps padded down the stairs. They were so quiet any human would have missed it. I turned in my stool to the stairs. A tall man was standing at the base. He was muscled just like Zeke. He looked to be in his twenties. He looked a lot like Zeke but he had blond hair and blue eyes. He locked eyes with me and smiled the goofiest grin I ever saw. Almost like the Cheshire Cat. He scooped me up and spun in a circle. “You’re here, you’re here, you’re here! Finally!” He sat me back on my stool and ruffed my hair.
Gina smacked his arm with a wooden spoon. “At least let the girl know who you are before you manhandle her. Gosh, did I not teach you anything?” She smiled shaking her head and rolling her beautiful blue eyes. “Ouch, mom. Why you gotta be so rough. You’re gonna bruise me, woman.” I let out a giggle. I could tell he was going to be entertaining to say the least. Zeke grabbed him in a headlock, and ran his knuckles in his hair. “Don’t disrespect my woman.” He let him go and looked to me. “This knucklehead is my heir, the next Beta of the pack. Cass, meet Will.” He stuck his hound out formally. I reached out to shake it, but he drew my hand in and kissed the back. “Enchante. I am William Zachariah Davis III.” He stood tall and proud. I giggled again at him. I liked him. I never knew anyone that was naturally silly.
Will got a smack to the back of the head by a petite blond girl. She was barely able to reach his head. “Don’t be an idiot, you’ll scare her away. I’m Allison. You can call me Allie. Happy birthday.” She shook my hand with a smile. She went to Zeke and gave him a hug. “Morning, Daddy." He kissed the top of her head. “Morning, princess.” She grabbed her stack of pancakes and sat next to me.
I watched Will pour chocolate chips, bananas, and peanut butter chips all over his stack of pancakes. “What are you a 5 year old girl?” Allie asked her brother. “What, Its delicious.” He defended. “Yeah, if you like to watch episodes of the Care bears and My little pony on repeat.” He answered by covering his stack with whipped cream, shoving a huge bite in his mouth and giving me a wink. I giggled. Allie shook her head “Ugh, bothers. Don’t worry about him, he’ll grow on you. I promise he’s not completely mental, just a goof. So I’ve never had a sister. I hope you don’t mind, but I plan on dragging you with me everywhere.”
“Um... I guess. I’ve never had anyone, well not since I was 5. Except for Zeke of course.” Allie and Gina both smiled at me. Zeke brought out some bacon and began cooking it up. He threw the first 3 pieces on my plate. I already felt at home. The kids weren’t so bad after all. I could’ve smacked myself. They are so accepting of me. But come on. How was I supposed to know that. Not one of my foster homes made me feel comfortable. I felt like I was a part of Zeke’s family. They were already growing on me.
Just then, heavy footsteps raced down the stairs sounding like elephants. Two boys with the same face stopped at the bottom of the stairs. They both tilted their heads and smiled. “Boys this is Cass.” Gina introduced. “Cass this is Matthew and Nathan.” She said placing her hand on their shoulders as she said their names. “Mom." They replied in unison. Gina rolled her eyes. “Sorry, Matt and Nate." Matt shook my hand, then Nate. “I’m Cass.” The boys looked exactly alike. Same brown hair, same eyes, same smile, same tall strong build. But after looking for a minute, I noticed slight differences. Matt had a more narrow face. Nate’s eyes were a little larger. They both had freckles across their nose and cheeks. I noticed Nate had a small cluster under his left eye that looked like the constellation Orion. Cool, I can tell them apart.