Episode 3: Clayton
The warm breeze from the summer sky blew through the trees, coiling around the pack members as they put to rest one of their own. There was no open casket, in fact there was no casket at all. The dead were burned ceremonially in front of the pack, their ashes were collected and placed in small engraved stone urns. They did this to give themselves more space to bury their dead.
The wrought iron fence stretched a good ways, easily enclosing the cemetery in. tombstones lined throughout, dating all the way back to the seventeen hundreds.
Clayton stood next to his mother and father who didn’t appear to be sympathetic in the least. His father, older now by nine years, had begun sprouting grey hairs. Of course he now kept his head completely shaved, not wanting others to view him as weak for his age. His body still held its physique, his muscles still toned. He still raised his fists to his son which was how Clayton knew he was still as strong as ever.
Even at seventeen Clayton had a hard time fighting off his father. Over the years, Clayton had adapted his own way of dealing with the abuse. He joked about it. Jokes were his cover. He hid his own pain by making people laugh, not including his father. Trevor wasn’t fond of his jokes especially while beating him.
Clayton clasped his hands in front of him and bowed his head as they lowered Artemis’s father into the ground. The heartbreaking sound of Angie’s cries rolled across his skin, worming its way into his heart. She dropped to the ground and Artemis wrapped his arms around her.
He’d died from a heart attack, werewolves were paranormal creatures and indeed healed faster than humans but it didn’t mean that they were immortal or that they couldn’t die from something as human as a heart attack.
Sweat trickled the back of his neck. The summer sun beat down on all of them. The air was humid and the black suit he stood in was like a sauna. Artemis glanced over at him as his mother clung to his body sobbing, the look of loss and heartbreak clear in his grey eyes. Clayton knew his friend was aware that he wouldn’t just be losing one parent , he’d be losing both. Once a werewolf succumbed to its death, it’s mate usually followed. It was like losing half of yourself and without that other half you were almost nothing but a Shell, or at least that’s what Clayton had heard.
A heavy hand landed on his shoulder causing Clayton to tense. He itched to shrug it off, a low burning in his gut urged him to swing around and throw a strong, unwavering fist to his face. Instead he stayed stock still.
Soon his father wouldn’t be able to intimidate him. Soon the beatings would pass.
Clayton had been training as often as seven times a week and roughly five to six hours a day. He refused to be a doormat. He refused to be beaten down. For ten years he’d been hit, whipped, made to feel worthless and weak. He knew he wasn’t, he fought those vile words with every breath in his body. He wasn’t weak. His dominance was strong and almost strong enough to take on his father.
Artemis’s eyes zeroed in on Trevor’s hand before meeting Clayton’s irritated, uncomfortable gaze. With a short, clipped, barely there nod from Clayton, Artemis looked away. They both knew the time was coming.
The service ended, the pack began to depart but Artemis and his mother stayed behind.
Clayton followed his parents away from the cemetery, towards the pack house where they would have a celebration of life. Unfortunately that meant liquor and hardly any food as the alpha was greedy and didn’t take care of the pack as he should. Which was something Artemis was getting ready to take care of. At only nineteen, Clayton knew his friend was ready to be the leader they so desperately needed. Artemis was a fierce, yet kind male who, much like his father, cared for those under his protection.
As he took a step away from the direction of the pack house, his mother stopped him “Clayton, you better come with us. Just for awhile. Alpha Normus is introducing a new pack member”
With a short nod, he obeyed. He wouldn’t put himself in a position to embarrass his mother and father, not when the consequences were so dire. He followed them into the pack house, the large three story brick building was cooler, the fresh air conditioned air felt good against his face as he stepped out of the heat. The large entryway was packed with wolves and Alpha Normus stood on the large spiral old fashioned staircase.
Eyeing him with blatant disdain, Clayton watched from the sidelines as he began to welcome everyone for joining him and it was then that Clayton caught a new more potent scent, it was rich and spicy. Manly and warm. It rushed through his veins, filling his heart. He held back a sigh and searched the room. He knew what it meant, he’d found his mate.
At seventeen years old he’d finally found his mate. His blue eyes searched the room for the female he would call his. His feet moved through the crowd with stealth as he followed the enticing smell. His heart drummed loudly in his ears, his palms began to sweat. He wanted his happily ever after, he wanted to run far from his hell and venture straight into the heaven that only his mate could provide.
Alpha Normus continued to speak and it wasn’t until a new male joined him up on the stair step that Clayton realized where the smell was coming from. A male about six feet tall stood towering over their five foot seven alpha. His build was lean, his shoulders were strong and wide , his legs were braced apart and his hands were clasped in front of him. He was young, probably as young as Artemis and him. He had a strong attractive jaw line, his lips were thinner than most and his eyes were hooded and filled with a dark golden brown that easily resembled the gem, tourmaline. His hair was a dark brown almost near black and it was cut in a high low style.
“So I would like you all to welcome Malcom St. Claire.” Alpha Normus spoke, his eyes roaming across the pack before settling on the male that was called Malcom. “In a few days time we will have an acceptance ceremony”
Everything inside of Clayton revolted. There was no way he could have a male for a mate. Even as his soul reached for these males.
Malcom had caught his scent as well as his eyes lifted and scanned the crowd, swiftly ignoring Alpha Normus. A trickle of fear swept across Clayton and he prayed to the moon that this male didn’t recognize him back. Something had to be wrong, the moon had to have gotten it wrong.
Those golden brown eyes locked into his blue ones and the male quickly looked away, a red tint clouding his slightly tanned cheeks.
Clayton swung a nervous hesitant look towards his father who stood from at the side near the wall with his mate, his focus was on Clayton. A sharp look of interest and disgust entered his eyes as he looked between the two males.
With a quick jerk, Clayton turned and pushed passed pack members, ignoring their looks of irritation. His wolf was prancing, his tail swinging back and forth as he wanted to go to their mate. Scowling he grumbled to himself and walked out of the pack house and back into the summer heat.
He wasn’t gay. He didn’t like men like that. There wasn’t even a small part of him that wanted to even try as he simply wasn’t attracted to that male.
He loved women, their soft curves and smooth flesh. Nothing about the male anatomy turned him on.
Shaking his head he caught sight of Artemis who was heading straight towards him, “Hey” Clayton said.
Artemis fell into step with him as they headed towards the trees, “What did the alpha want?” He asked.
Clayton tensed and then forced himself to relax. “He introduced a new pack member. Malcom St. Claire”
Artemis suddenly looked over his shoulder and nudged him with his shoulder, “Is that him?”
Clayton slowly looked back and forced himself not to react to drastically and instead simply found himself nodding, “Yep. That’s him.” Malcom stood outside the pack house on the front steps watching with a careful eye and Clayton walked into the woods with Artemis.
“I’m sorry about your father,” he said, stepping over various branches. He shoved his hands deep into his pockets, casting his eyes down. Brandon Steele was a hell of a wolf, he’d stood up for him when nobody else would. He and Angie had opened their home to him when he needed it the most, on countless occasions they’d bandaged his wounds, fed him a hot meal but had no choice but to always return him home.
Clayton knew he could have run away, but he had nowhere to go and a wolf who lived and hunted alone doesn’t last very long. He also knew that he wouldn’t have lasted long in the human world. So he stayed and he dealt with the abuse. During the days he trained, at night he took the abuse waiting for his opportunity.
Artemis looked off into the distance as birds flew from their nest, “It doesn’t seem real. It feels like a dream and any minute I’ll wake up and he will still be here”
“It’ll probably feel that way for awhile.”
“Yeah probably” Artemis muttered before coming to a full stop. Clayton fell silent. Both males stood in the middle of the forest, straining to listen as they both had sensed somebody following them.
Both males stood still as the forest became quiet. The hunters had become the hunted. A prickling sensation nagged at the back of his neck causing his hair to stand on end, they were being watched.