Forgotten Wolf

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21 Pay Up!

The short twenty minute walk back to the starting point feels like an eternity with the awkward silence. The usually harmonious atmosphere between Jace and Chris is completely lacking.

The silence leaves me alone with my thoughts, which is rarely good. Things with Chris are intense to say the least. A month ago I wouldn’t have thought there was anything there. Yet now he has such control over my body it scares me. I’m afraid if he says jump I’ll ask how high.

The thought of going back to a mindless shell only to obey like before terrifies me. A shiver runs down my spine as I shudder at the past.

I’ve done so well to keep the memories away lately.

I hug myself tightly, as if desperate to hold myself together.

Once they start it’s like a mental damn breaks and the memories uncontrollably flood my mind. I’m frozen, remembering every time he took off his belt, or raised a hand. The sickening feeling I got when his hands were on me sends cold shivers down my spine. All I can see is that look on his face, such malice in his dark eyes that warns me just how bad it’s going to get. My heart races and my chest tightens as the panic bubbles up, threatening to take control over my body.

A hand landing on my shoulder sends me over the edge, and I spin to desperately try to get away. I lash out wildly, striking and scratching anything to get away.

“Jess! Jess baby, you have to calm down!” Strong arms encircle me, pulling my back against a chest, but in my state it just fuels my terror and desperation to break free.

“Jess, snap out of it. It’s me Jace, you have to calm down. Chris has you, but you’ve got to stop fighting.” My wide eyes start to clear, only to reveal a shocked Jace, his eyes full of concern. “That’s it, breathe. We got you, nothing’s going to happen, you’re safe.”

The tightening in my chest starts to relent as I try to steady my breathing with Jace, following his rhythm. Blinking away the unshed tears in my eyes I look around, trying to ground myself.

“Shhh, that’s it baby. Just breathe,” Chris whispers encouragement into my ear as he loosens his grip. His voice and presence is reassuring and helps to calm me. “I’m going to let go now, just please don’t run, okay?”

I give a slight nod to let him know I understand. Slowly he unwraps his arms and instantly I pull away, falling to my hands and knees. I stay there panting, fingers digging into the leaves and soil, grounding myself.

It’s not real, he’s not here, you’re safe.

I repeat my mantra to myself. After some time my heartbeat and breathing are back to normal. I can feel both men standing there staring at me, but thankfully they say nothing.

Eventually I sit back, eyes closed, listening to the gentle sway of the breeze as I finish gathering myself. I feel Chris and Jace sit down. Chris reaches a tentative hand towards me, but at my flinch he withdraws.

Jace speaks first, “What was that Jess?” His voice is quiet and gentle, laced with concern. I just shake my head. “Don’t do that, that wasn’t nothing.”

“It was just a moment.” The quivering in my voice confirms his suspicion. “Don’t look at me like that, I’ll be fine. I just need a second.”

“Please talk to us. We just want to help you,” Jace pleads.

Chris has been quiet and I risk looking over at him. He’s staring ahead at the ground, jaw clenching as he focuses on his own thoughts. I can’t help the embarrassment at my outburst.

I want to run so badly but that will just upset him further.

“There’s nothing to talk about, it was just a moment,” I practically whisper. “It’s over now, nothing to worry about.”

“Nothing to worry about?!” Chris finally speaks, barely able to contain his fury. “You were terrified!” I just shake my head not trusting my voice. “Don’t lie to me. I could smell your fear.”

I start to wither under his intense stare and my eyes start to water, threatening to spill over. Jace takes notice and intervenes, “Chris, come on man.” He nods towards me; my deteriorating state is enough to end it for now. “We should get back, people will wonder where we are.”

With that, we all got up, brushing ourselves off to look presentable. I have enough time to secure my composure before we make it to the starting point. Sounds of the party and crowd let us know the celebration is well underway before it even comes into view. Instinctively, I move closer to Chris.

“We can skip it? Or head back to the pack house first if that’s better?” Chris’s nervous energy isn’t helping my composure.

“Really I’m fine. Please, can we just forget it?”

I’m not above begging, it’s bad enough they saw me like this. I don’t want everyone to know.

He looks at me skeptically, but eventually nods. “I’m not going to forget, I hope you’ll tell me when you’re ready. But tonight is about celebrating and you’ve earned it,” he says smiling down at me, lifting my chin.

Before long, the crowd comes into view. As soon as they spot us, the players rush in. A slightly battered Sara grabs my shoulders, eyes boring into mine.

“Well?” She’s looking almost desperate. “Who won!?” At my lack of answer she snaps her attention to Chris and his unreadable expression.

“Congratulations head warrior, it seems your strategy worked. I just didn’t get there fast enough.” Chris’s solemn demeanor gives nothing away. He reaches out to shake her hand, which frees me.

The crowd breaks out into wild cheers as the women go nuts, squealing, jumping and hugging each other. I’m swept up in the celebration as everyone congratulates me for outlasting both the Alpha and Beta.

Before long, the celebration is in full swing. People are busy setting up tables as grills are set up to get to work on the celebratory feast.

Jude breaks through the crowd and sweeps me up in a big hug, lifting me up and spinning me. A wild laugh escapes me at his exuberance. “Put me down you oaf.”

“You did it!” His blue eyes are twinkling as if he won himself. “I told you that you were stronger than you knew, and look at that, you won!” He’s absolutely beaming, his energy is contagious and I feel my mood lift instantly.

“Me what about you?! Top three, I’m so proud of you.” I give him another hug. Bashful Jude is back and blushing at my praise.

Claire breaks in, passing me a drink which I happily take and down half right away. “Girl you’ve earned it. There’s about an hour before things really kick off, go clean up and change.”

A shower sounds fantastic right about now.

I make my way to Chris’s room, who’s nowhere to be seen so I head to the shower. Peeling the dirty clothes off, I step into the steamy water. Something about a hot shower always makes everything feel better. The stress just melts away as the water washes the day away.

I notice there is a new shampoo and conditioner that I don’t remember from before. Their wild black cherry smell is delicious, and calms me further. It takes some time to work through my tangled tresses. By the time I’m done, I feel refreshed and relaxed.

I exit the bathroom wrapped in a towel, thankful for the clothes Claire must have left out. I put on the dark skinny jeans and a light, blue, flowy scoop neck blouse, and do my hair in a loose side braid, before heading down to the party.

“You look beautiful,” Chris says from behind me. I blush instantly, dropping my gaze. He offers his arm with a big grin. “Shall we?”

I nod and take his arm as he leads us to the party. He’s dressed simple in blue jeans and a dark V-neck shirt that sets his hazel eyes off nicely. His energy has evened out back to normal, much to my relief.

“Sorry Alpha, we need to steal her for a while,” Claire says as her and Alexi drag me off passing me another drink.

Oh boy, now what?

Before long we are all seated at the head table with Sara in the center; Claire to her right and surprisingly enough she insists I sit to her left. Apparently one of the bets placed involves the winners being served by the losers.

As if on cue, the guys carried plates over to start the feast. First course is appetizers, loaded potato skins, stuffed mushrooms, and cheesy garlic bread.

“This is so good! Save me some of those skins, I need another drink,” I say. Claire stops me from getting up and just winks.

“Oh Garçon,” Claire calls, shaking the glass. She grins as a smirking Xavier walks up to refill the glass.

“Enjoying yourself are you?” His tone is clearly playful but there’s an edge of challenge to it. “Just remember it’s only for tonight,” he scoffs, heading back to the rest of his team.

“He says that now, but I can’t remember the last time he’s let me get my own drink,” she giggles.

Next comes the main course. Chris sets the steak down in front of Sara and myself, looking at me the whole time. I can’t help my blush and bite my lower lip as I smile back at him. Before long they join us and everyone starts to dig in.

As dinner progresses and the drinks flow, the party gets louder and more riled up. Now that the food has wrapped up apparently it’s time to settle debts.

“Pay up!” Natilie shouts at a red faced Liam. “We won and I fully intend to collect,” she laughs.

“Fine,” he concedes. Rolling up his sleeves he gets up and walks behind her, and starts to massage her shoulders as hoots and hollers break out. If his face was red before, it’s scarlet now.

“Make sure you get the knot out on the left side,” she instructs with a triumphant grin.

Alexi is the next to collect, apparently she’s owed a foot massage from Nate. Slowly debts are settled, some are money but it looks like most are favours so to speak.

Music starts playing and the drinking has everyone in the mood to dance. The tables are removed to make more room for dancing. The bonfire’s lit and the party is in full swing. I don’t know how many people live here but if this is any indication there are a lot!

“So what will it be?” Chris asks as he walks up next to me as I watch the fire.

I raise my brow, not sure of what he means.

“I’ve come to pay up,” he says with a seductive tone that causes me to blush. The way the firelight dances across his features only makes him look more attractive as he smiles at me.

“It’s okay. I didn’t really have anything in mind,” I dismiss, flustered.

“Really? Because if I won, I fully intended to collect,” he says teasingly. My eyes snap up to his at the promise in his words. Amusement and desire swirl in his hazel eyes as the rest of the party fades away, leaving just us. “Come on, name it.” Chris has closed the gap, leaving me hyper aware of our proximity.

I just shrug as my heart flutters. I really can’t think of anything other than how close we are.

“There has to be something you want?” He whispers, cupping my cheek to look at him.

Jude! It’s thanks to him that I won after all. Hell it was for him that I agreed to do this crazy shit.

“Jude,” I whisper. His eyes instantly harden losing their playful light.

“No.” He scowls.

“But why? He did great in the challenge, he worked well with -” I reason, furrowing my brow as he cuts me off.

“I said no! Pick something else,” he growls loud enough to gain attention from the nearby crowd.

“I don’t understand!? He’s done everything you could want, and gets along well with everyone! He’s strong and loyal -”

“Enough!” His voice booms, effectively freezing the party as all eyes snap to us. My heart starts to pound as his anger mounts. “You’re right, you don’t understand! Pack business is my business. Ask for anything else, hell you want a new truck I’ll get it for you, but not that!”

I stand my ground as I begin to tremble in anger. “You said anything I wanted, that’s the only thing I want.”

Jude, Jace and Xavier make their way to the edge of the crowd, trying to make sense of what’s going on. The confusion is clear on their faces As they look between us.

“What is the problem!?” I snap, eyes locked on his.

"He is the problem,” Chris growls as he steps closer, towering over me. I can feel the anger rolling off of him, but I’m too fired up to back down. “The way he looks at you.”

“There is nothing going on between us. We are just friends,” I try and reason with him. His angry gaze tells me he doesn’t believe a word I say.

“You may think he’s just a friend, but I see how he looks at you.” He’s visibly shaking at this point as my resolve wavers. “I will not have anyone around who wants what is mine!”

I take a step back. I’ve never seen this domineering side of him and it’s frightening. He steps closer, towering over me, face inches from mine.

“You. Are. Mine,” he seethes. His hazel eyes are mostly dark brown now and getting darker by the second.

“I am no one’s,” I counter as my heart races. “I’m going home.”

I turn to leave, but he grabs my arm to pull me back. I gasp in shock at the rough contact. “Chris let me go!” He doesn’t budge, so I beg, “Please.” Desperately I try to pry his fingers off, to no avail.

My plea is all that Jude needs to spring into action. “Get your hands off her,” he snarls as he lunges at Chris, shoving Chris back. I’m unable to break his iron grip and stumble back with him.

“Get out of here mutt if you want to keep your life. This doesn’t concern you.” Chris’s voice does nothing to hide the lethal threat. “The only reason you’re still breathing is thanks to her.”

“I’m not leaving without her,” Jude growls as he stands ready for a fight.

Panic threatens to overtake me for the second time today. My eyes are wide, heart’s racing, and chest tight as the fight escalates around me.

Chris throws the first punch, which Jude dodges. He throws his own, which lands a stunning hit on Chris’s jaw. Jude takes the stunned moment to break his grip and pulls me free to him.

Chris’s furious roar drops me to my knees as I cover my ears, unable to catch my breath. In an instant, Jude is over me like a shield as Chris attacks him.

Jace and Xavier jump in, soon joined by Nate and Liam. It takes all four men to pull the battling men apart. In the end, it’s a hard hit from Jace, breaking Chris’s nose that snaps him out of his rage. The calm only lasts a second before his murderous fury is turned to Jace.

Jace screams at him, “Look at her! She’s terrified!” Jace’s grey eyes swirl with anger and concern as he looks between me and Chris.

Chris’ eyes flicker between hazel and dark brown as he looks at me. I cower beneath Jude’s protection, my eyes burning with tears that threaten to fall at any moment. I’m a mess, unable to control my breathing or my trembling lip.

He growls and tries to get to me, only to be pushed back by Jude. Jace and Xavier both step in to hold Chris back.

“Take her home,” Jace commands.

“No,” Chris booms as he tries to shake off Jace and Xavier.

Not needing to be told twice, Jude scoops me up and takes off for the truck.

Chris roars again and I bury my head in Jude’s chest. Moments later, he tucks me into the passenger seat and we peel out of the driveway, heading for home.

I sit there numb, watching the trees pass as the forest opens up, signaling the end of pack territory. I can’t even look at Jude.

My stupidity has ruined any chance he had to join their pack.

My heart breaks knowing how much it meant to him.

“I’m so sorry Jude, I -”

He cuts me off wrapping an arm around my shoulders pulling me close. “Shhh, you didn’t do a thing. Everything’s going to be fine, I’ll have you home soon.” He gives me a quick squeeze and kisses the top of my head.

As we draw closer to home my anxiety flares. After how things went down tonight the thought of being alone leaves me feeling uneasy.

“Can I stay with you tonight?” I whisper.

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