Luna Natalie Stone arrived within 5 minutes with a look of concern on her face but relief flooded through her when she saw that he was not hurt. “What’s going on, Matt? Who’s hurt?”
“I think I met my mate today, Mom. I saved her from a rogue in the forest near the highway. We were talking and she suddenly passed out. Her former pack had been beating and starving her. Doc says it’s been going on for a long time. Doc said her mother used to be your best friend.” Matt said, in a quiet voice.
“What? Angie’s daughter is your mate? How could Angie and Rafe let someone do that to their child? I can’t believe they did it.” Natalie said in shock.
“She said her parents are dead. I can’t smell her mom! She has no scent whatsoever.” Matt said.
Natalie stood up and began to pace back and forth. She couldn’t get her head around the fact that her best friend’s daughter was here AND her son’s mate. She and Angie had always hoped that they would always be in the same pack and that their children would be mates.
When Angie had met Rafe and he moved her to his pack, she had been heartbroken and lost for a long time without her friend. They had kept in touch for a while at first but eventually they both got busy with their own lives and families and had lost touch over the years. Natalie had often missed her.
“Periwinkle.” She said, absently.
“What?” Matt said.
Natalie explained that periwinkle will cover the scent of a wolf if they rub it all over themselves. “Angie had been somewhat of an herbalist and knew about all kinds of plants. She must have taught her daughter and she must have found some in a field somewhere and rubbed it all over herself to cover her scent. How did she manage to get here? It’s over a 100 miles away from the Red Moon Pack and that’s only if you draw a straight line between here and there. How long has she been missing from there? I wonder why we haven’t heard about her missing?”
“I don’t know. I guess we’ll have to wait to talk to her. She just woke up but Doc wants x-rays taken to tell if she has or has had any broken bones.” Matt said. He felt sick to his stomach and couldn’t imagine how anyone could do that to her. She was so tiny and seemed so sweet and respectful.
A minute later, Dr. Andy came out and greeted Natalie before explaining what the x-rays had shown him. “She’s had several broken ribs in the past but they healed well. Also her left shoulder has been dislocated at one point but it’s also healed well. Her arms show evidence of having been put under considerable strain, either from being yanked and twisted or from lifting heavy objects.
From what little she’s told me of her life there it could be a combination of both. For such a tiny person, she’s very strong in spirit but terribly shy. She jumps and cowers if you move too quickly around her. And just so you know, she’s never been raped. At least she has been spared that but not much else. What she has been through probably would have sent most men over the edge. She’s going to be a great Luna, Matt.” Dr. Andy told him.
“Can we see her now?” Matt asked.
“Sure but go at her slow. She jumps if you move too quickly and she’s still weak. I’m going to get her a big steak dinner and some protein shakes to drink.” Dr. Andy said.
Matt nodded and quickly stood up and held out his hand to his mother. Together they entered the room and Natalie gasped when she saw a miniature Angie laying on the big white bed. She was propped up and covered to her breasts with a white sheet and blanket. Her eyes were closed but she was clutching the sheet to keep herself covered.
Matt walked to the side of the bed and pulled another chair forward for his mom. Sam opened her eyes as they sat down and Matt introduced his mom. “Sam, this is my mom, Luna Natalie. Mom, this is Sam Madison.”
“Actually it’s Samantha. Right?” Natalie said with a smile. “Your mom, Angie, was my best friend from the time we were in diapers. How are you feeling my dear?”
“Better. Hungry and tired but better. Thanks.” Sam replied then added. “It’s very nice to finally meet you. My mom showed me pictures of you when I was younger. You still look the same.”
Natalie’s eyes misted and she said. “Matt told me that your parents have passed? How?”
“Well, I can tell you the official story or what I know to be true. The official story was that my mom was having an affair with a rogue and set up my father and Alpha Raymond to go after what they thought was one rogue but when they got there, there were over fifty rogues and they were killed trying to fight them.
What my mom told me was that dad’s younger brother, Lou, was jealous because when Alpha Raymond Glass made Alpha when his parents retired, he chose my father over him for the Beta position. Even though Uncle Lou was second in line, he thought he was supposed to receive special treatment because his mother was my grandfather’s current mate.
Uncle Lou was the one that set my father and his Alpha up to be murdered by the rogues. To cover his story, Uncle Lou beat my mother repeatedly and refused to feed her and she finally starved to death in the cells.
The Red Moon pack used to be over 500 strong. They now have barely 200 men left. They are cruel and abusive and just downright mean. They are going broke because of the greed and laziness of not only Lou but from his mother when she was alive. No one can prove it but there are rumors that Lou killed my grandfather, Nathan, as well.
Uncle Lou’s son, Ralph is just as crazy and cruel as he is. The night before I ran away, I overheard Ralph and his friends talking about making me a breeder. They bring what they call breeders in all the time but they are not there to bring children into the pack. They are strictly for their perverted sadistic pleasure.
My job before I left was to make sure the laundry was done, to make sure there were clean linens because the maids are required to change every used bed in the pack house daily. I also had to keep the bathrooms stocked with towels. I lost count of how many times I would go into one of the bedrooms to drop off sheets and towels to find some poor woman still tied to the bed, beaten, often bleeding and begging for help. I was not allowed to speak to them or do anything for them. If I did, I would be beaten.
My “room” was a closet in the utility room. Last winter I got badly beaten and was in the clinic for a week because I fell asleep on a pile of dirty laundry, trying to stay warm on the cold tile floor.
I was only allowed to eat what was left on other people’s plates when I cleared the tables after meals or what I could sneak and steal from the cupboards or fridge that I thought no one would notice. I can’t tell you how many beatings I took for stealing food because I was starving. Uncle Lou told me that if he caught me again, he was going to pull all of my teeth out with a pair of pliers.
The worst beatings were when I tried to sneak food to my mom. They last time I did it, he hung me from a tree branch and Uncle Lou hit me with his fists until he got tired and then he beat me with a board. Broke several of my ribs and dislocated my shoulder plus I couldn’t see out of my left eye for over a week because it was swollen shut.” Sam told them, hoping she would only have to explain this once and wanted to get the whole story out. She had no clue that she was going to have to repeat this many more times in the future.
“Didn’t anyone ever do anything to help you? What about your teachers? Counselors at school?” Natalie asked. Matt seemed to have gone mute as he fought to keep the tears at bay and he had to keep his hands gripping the sides of his chair as he listened to her tell her story. It was ripping his heart out and he wanted to kill the people who had treated her so badly.
“I wasn’t allowed to go to school after they died but I can read and write. The only one that tried to help me was Aunt Mae. She’s Lou’s arranged mate but I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that he’s killed her soon. She has stopped sleeping with him. I think he’s not only going to allow Ralph to bring in more breeders but he’s going to start being with them. I’ve never seen one in his room but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t use the ones in one of the other rooms.
“But Lou would only be a Beta. How is it he has so much control?” Matt asked.
“Alpha Nelson is weak and stupid and he’s younger than Lou. Lou is a bully and he knows how to manipulate Nelson, making him believe that what Lou is doing is what’s best for the pack, making them a stronger pack by weeding out the weak ones, he claims.” Sam replied.
“Has anyone ever reported any of this to the council?” Natalie asked.
“No. No one dares to go against Lou and his henchmen. To do so is certain death. Most of the ones who have left and got away slipped away in the night or under false pretenses to leave pack grounds and take their families and then they just never return. They give up everything they own to be free of him. Others are found dead and Lou and his henchmen claim it was rogues that did it.” Sam explained.
“Someone needs to put a stop to him.” Matt said, getting angry that someone was abusing their power to terrorize the people they had sworn to protect.
“Good luck. I’m just thankful that I’m out of there. I’ve been dreaming about getting away for 6 years.” Sam said, with a sigh of relief.
“Well you are safe here and no one will hurt you ever again. I won’t allow it. We do not allow bullying by anyone to anyone. Dr. Andy has ordered you some food and it should be here soon.” Matt said then caught his breath when she smiled at him and whispered “Thank you! Can I have meat? I haven’t had meat that didn’t come out of the trash in such a long time.” Sam asked, her mouth watering at the thought.
“He’s got a big steak dinner coming. Is there anything else you want?” Matt replied. His stomach had revolted when she said she had been eating stuff from the trash. He couldn’t believe that anyone could be so cruel and it made him want to kill her Uncle and cousin and anyone else who had treated her badly.
Just then Nurse Abby and Dr. Andy returned. Nurse Abby was pushing a table with a big steak dinner and all the trimmings, which smelled heavenly to Sam. There were also several cans of protein drinks in several different flavors.
“Come on, Matt. Let’s go and let her eat in peace. You need to put some clothes on and I think your father will want to hear about this.” Natalie said. She leaned over and gave Sam a warm hug and a quick kiss on the forehead. She couldn’t believe how skinny and frail Sam was. She had been afraid to hug her too hard as she might hurt her. “I’m so glad you are here dear. Enjoy your dinner and we’ll be back later to visit some more. OK?”
“Thank you. I’d like that.” Sam said. Her mouth was watering from the sight and smell of the steak and her stomach rumbled loudly as Matt and his mother left. She had been torn between not wanting them staying to watch her eat and not wanting Matt to leave her. She wasn’t sure if he realized it or not but he was her mate and she was so excited to get to know him. Hopefully, she will be able to get a shower and some clothes before he comes back.
She pulled the table closer as Nurse Abby fussed around her and Dr. Andy said he would be back in a little while and followed Natalie and Matt outside.
She cut into the steak and it had been prepared perfectly. She stuffed a big bite in her mouth and savored it as she quickly chewed, almost afraid that this was some cruel joke and someone was going to take it away from her before she could have any more.
“Slow down hon. It will be a while before they get back. You don’t want to choke on it.” Nurse Abby gently scolded with a small smile.
“I’m sorry. It’s just been so long since I’ve had fresh food and even longer since I’ve had freshly cooked meat. I was never allowed anything but table scraps and the last time I had meat was over a week ago when a nice man gave me some table scraps from the back of a diner. He thought I was a dog! But he was really nice to me.” Sam told her. “Do you think I could get a shower and something to wear before Alpha or his mom comes back? I feel embarrassed to be sitting here with just the sheet to cover me.”
“If you feel strong enough to stand and Doc says it’s OK, I don’t see why not to the shower. I’ll have to hunt you up some clothes but I think we can find you something to wear. Might not be the best fit but at least you will be covered.” Nurse Abby said. “I hate to tell you this but we had to cut your clothes off of you when we examined you. Besides they were so filthy I doubt even washing them would have helped. What were the purple stains from?”
“Thank you. I appreciate it. The stains were from some blackberries I found in the woods a few days after I first ran away. They were delicious and I ate until my stomach hurt.” Sam grinned as she stuffed another piece of steak and her mouth then moaned. “Oh this is so good!”
“I’m going to talk to Doc about the shower and find you some clothes. If you need anything just push this button and someone will be right here. OK?” Nurse Abby said and when Sam nodded, she left the room.
Sam tried to go slow as she ate the steak and baked potato and broccoli but wanted to save enough room for some of the delicious looking apple pie that was sitting there waiting for her. She was only about half way through when she began to feel overly full and decided to cheat and spooned a mouthful of the warm pie into her mouth. She closed her eyes and savored the bite as she slowly chewed it. She hadn’t had anything sweet since before her mom died.
She had always heard people complain about how bad hospital food was but this was heavenly. She just wished she had more room in her stomach for more and after one more bite of pie, she finally gave up. She hated that she had not finished but it had been so long since she had eaten so much, she was sure her stomach had shrunk and she just couldn’t eat anymore.
Nurse Abby came back and told her that Dr. Andy had approved her shower and that she would be moved to another room, as this one was only an exam room. “Couldn’t finish?” Nurse Abby asked as she moved the table to the side. She noticed that the amount missing was about the equivalent to what a child would have been able to eat and her heart felt sore for the young woman.
“No. I tried but it’s been so long since I’ve had so much food all to myself. I ate as much as I could and now I feel stuffed. It was really delicious but I couldn’t eat another bite. If you could wrap and refrigerate it, I’ll try to eat more later?” Sam smiled weakly at her. She hoped they would not be offended that she had not been able to eat it all.
“No worries. There’s plenty more where that came from. As you get stronger and in better shape, you’ll be able to eat it all.” Nurse Abby told her. “Since this IV bag is almost empty, let me take this needle out of your arm and then we’ll let you get a shower. I brought you some clothes. I hope they fit somewhat. I don’t have any underwear for you but I’ve got some disposable ones you can wear if you want them.”
Nurse Abby removed the IV from her arm and helped her with a hospital gown to cover her until she came out of the shower. Sam’s legs were weak and she couldn’t seem to stop shaking when she made any kind of effort so Nurse Abby helped her to stand and make it to the wheelchair she had brought with her. She wheeled Sam down the hall and into a large private room. There was a larger hospital bed and a couple of comfy looking upholstered chairs under the windows with a small table between them. A good sized flat screen TV hung on the wall next to the bathroom door.
Nurse Abby rolled her right up to the bathroom door and helped her to stand up and make it inside. There was a small bench in the large open shower stall. Nurse Abby turned on the water and adjusted the temperature so that it was warm but not scalding hot. She helped Sam out of the hospital gown and to sit on the bench and then asked. “Do you want help washing your hair? There’s shampoo and conditioner on the ledge there.”
“No, thanks. I think I can manage.” Sam said with a smile. She was still weak but it felt really strange to have someone waiting on her like this and she was slightly embarrassed for Nurse Abby to see her naked, although she realized it was probably something she saw all the time. Wolves were not really shy about their naked bodies and she had seen people naked, both men and women in the past. But few of them had any scars and Sam’s back was covered in them, making her embarrassed that she was so damaged. She wondered what Matt would think of them.
“Well, when you are done, just call out or if I’m not here, push the red button and someone will come. Don’t try to walk without one of us here. We don’t want you falling and hitting your head or anything.” Nurse Abby said.
“Ok. I promise.” Sam said as she reached for the handheld unit and held it over her head. It was going to be so good to be clean again. She wasn’t sure how long she had been on the road but her last shower had seemed like a long time ago. She had tried to keep her face, hands and private areas clean in the small creeks and streams she had found along the way but most of them had been barely more than a few inches deep and she had realized that to wash herself entirely would wash away the periwinkle away and then other wolves would be able to smell her again.
She enjoyed taking her time in the shower and she washed her hair twice to get all of the mud out. She’d had small bits of twigs and leaves buried in the thick strands from sleeping in the woods, wherever she could find a safe place to sleep for a few hours, mostly under bushes or inside old tree logs.
She scrubbed herself from head to toe and then let the water slush over her body, enjoying the sensation until she heard Nurse Abby call out from the other side of the door. “Are you OK in there?”
“Yes. I’m fine. I’ll be out in a minute. This shower feels wonderful.” Sam replied. She grabbed the nice fluffy towel where Nurse Abby had left it on top of her clothes and quickly dried her body before wrapping it around her hair. She saw a toothbrush on the counter but no comb or brush.
Sam inspected the disposable underwear and other clothes and finally decided she would rather go without the disposable underwear. They looked like large pull up diapers like a child who was toilet training would wear. When she was having her menstrual cycle they would be welcome but not now. She pulled on the pants that looked like surgical scrubs and tied them around the waist. The top was a small adult size but it was still large for her but there was also a wrap about shirt to go over it. She quickly brushed her teeth but had to hang on to the sink when she called out for Nurse Abby as she was still feeling a little weak.
“Abby? I’m ready to come out now.” Sam called and was shocked when Natalie opened the door and reached out to her.
“Come on, hon. I’ll help you get to bed. Are you feeling better now?” Natalie smiled at her as she caught her scent and wondered what Matt was going to think.
“Is Alpha Matthew here?” Sam hesitated to leave the bathroom.
“Not yet but he will be in a minute. Come on, let’s get you settled in before he does. OK?” She understood how Sam would not want him to see her like this. The clothes Abby had provided, while being the smallest she could find, swallowed Sam and hung off of her tiny frame. A woman should be allowed to have some dignity left.
Sam nodded and allowed Natalie to take her arm and together they slowly shuffled over to the bed. Natalie was a lot stronger than she looked as she held her arm securely and practically lifted her on the bed. She helped her to cover up and then sat down next to her.
“Thank you.” Sam said as she slipped under the sheet and pulled the covers up to her chest. “I’m not usually so weak but I guess the trip up here took more out of me than I realized.”
“How long did it take you to get here?” Natalie asked.
“What day is it today?” Sam asked. She had lost track of how many days she had been running and hiding.
“It’s the third Thursday in September.” Natalie said and watched as Sam’s eyes got bigger.
“Wow. I didn’t realize it took me almost three weeks to get here but I had to stay out of sight so I had to detour several times to get around homes and towns where there were too many people. I tried to stick mostly to the woods or places where it was easy to hide. Sometimes I had to wait until well after dark to get across roads or through areas that had been cleared. I left on the last Friday of August.” Sam shared with her.
“How did you manage to escape?” Natalie asked, curiously.
“In the back of a delivery truck. The pack house receives groceries every Friday and when the man had been in the kitchen dropping off the last of the load and waiting for Cook to sign for it, I ran for the back of his truck and hid behind some boxes of fresh fruit. I was afraid to breathe until we were off pack grounds and then he stopped for gas. I might have gotten away undetected for a while but a pack guard was at the store and saw me jump off the truck. I was in this form and he saw me. He started to chase me but I had a good head start and he was carrying stuff so he gave up and called back to the pack house.
I ran until I had a stitch in my side that hurt so bad I could barely breathe. I stopped at a rather deep stream and took a drink of water and I ate the fruit I had taken from the truck and tried to rest for a minute when I heard Ralph and some others were after me. I shifted, slipped into the water and ran or floated downstream until I found a place to get out that was covered with grass. I ran through the trees and came out in a field covered with periwinkle. I remembered my mom telling me that periwinkle would cover my scent so I jumped several times as far as I could to cover my footprints and then rolled around in it in both my wolf and human form. I watched to see if they were coming and when I figured that they had either gone the other way or had lost me at the creek, I ran again.
I made it to a road and the guard that had seen me was driving his car along the road really slowly, searching for me so I waited until he was out of sight and then followed him for about half a mile. By that time there was another batch of trees and I ran inside. I guess they finally gave up because after that, I never saw them again.” Sam told her.
Just then her door opened again and Matt entered with a man who just had to be his father. He and Matt were almost the same height and had similar body builds, except Matt was slightly more muscular but otherwise they looked almost identical except for their eyes.
Matt had jet black hair, a strong masculine jaw and the most luscious lips she had ever seen on a man. The only difference between them was that Matt had inherited his mother’s bright blue eyes, which were striking in his deeply tanned face. But what attracted her the most was his scent. He smelled of the woods after a cleansing rain and blueberries.
Matt stepped through the door and inhaled deeply. He could finally smell her and it made his mouth water. She smelled of fresh ripe sweet strawberries and caramel. The smile that broke across his face was one she would cherish in her heart forever. “Mate!” he breathed so softly that no one heard him except his father as Matt was having a hard time finding his voice.
The big man next to him chuckled when he saw the looks on their faces and said “Well that answers my first question.”
Natalie shot him a look and then turned to Sam and said “Samantha, this is my husband Richard Stone. Rich, this is Samantha Madison, Angie and Rafe’s daughter.”
“How do you do, young lady? It’s very nice to meet you.” Rich stepped up next to his wife and held out his hand.
Sam fought the urge to pull back as she looked up at him through her lashes and then down at his hand. No one had ever offered to shake her hand before but she slowly put her hand in his and his fingers overlapped her hand as if he was making a fist. Her hand was so small and frail and he could feel her hand tremble slightly in his and Rich was careful not to hurt or frighten her.
“Nice to meet you too, sir.” Sam said as her cheeks turned bright red.
“My goodness, they weren’t kidding when they said you are a tiny little thing. How are you feeling, my dear?” Rich said softly.
“Much better, thank you. Just a bit tired and really really full. They gave me the best dinner I’ve had in a very long time.” Sam said with a small shy smile at Matt.
Matt was having a hard time finding his voice as she smiled at him. His heart was beating like a jungle drum in his chest and his arms ached to hold her again.
Sam turned her head a bit and felt the towel that she had forgotten was on her head begin to slip. Her hand shot to her head and she felt the blush rush from her neck up over her entire face as a look of horror came over her face and she muttered “Oh, no! I forgot about this.”
Both men chuckled and Natalie glared at her husband and son. She stood up and chased them out of the room. “Go and let me help her get presentable. No girl wants to try to hold a discussion with men with a towel on her head.”
Natalie found a comb in the drawer and pushed the call button for someone to bring her a hair dryer and a brush. Natalie pushed off her shoes and urged Sam to scoot down on the bed so that she could sit behind her after she lowered the head of it down to where it was flat again.
Natalie climbed up behind Sam and helped her take the towel off of her head. “You don’t have to do this. I think I can.”
“Aw, please, let me. I used to do it for your mom. I would do hers and she would do mine when we had sleepovers when we were young.” Natalie said. “I miss her so much. I should have made more effort to keep in contact with her.”
“She missed you too. She used to tell me she would get back in touch as soon as she found a few minutes to sit down and call but back then the pack was bigger and she was busy all the time. I think if Uncle Lou hadn’t beat her to death she would have died of a broken heart anyway. She was really torn up when my father died and we didn’t even have time to grieve for him when they took her away. I think if it hadn’t been for my Aunt Mae, he would have beat me to death too.” Sam told her.
“I’m so sorry you had to go through that Sam but you are safe with us. We won’t let anyone hurt you like that ever again.” Natalie assured her, Natalie’s heart was sore at the thought of what they had put Sam through.
Natalie worked her way from the bottom to the top as they chatted. Natalie told her things that she remembered about her mom and Sam listened intently and tried not to cry as she remembered the times her mother had told her stories about her childhood and this wonderful lady.
“You have lovely hair, Sam. You need a trim to get rid of the split ends and maybe to style it a bit but it’s nice and thick and I love the color of it. You must have gotten it from your father, along with your skin tone. Your mom was fair skinned and had the most beautiful golden blonde hair. But you got her eyes and all of her facial features. She was very popular in high school and always had boys chasing after her. Do you want me to braid it for you so it doesn’t get tangled in your sleep?” Natalie asked.
“Please. It will be easier to take care of while I’m in here. How long do you think I’ll have to stay here?” Sam asked.
As Natalie quickly braided her hair she replied. “Dr. Andy said he wants you to stay overnight for observation and rest but if you ask me, you’ll get more rest at the house. They come and bother you every two hours here. Checking your pulse and blood pressure and all of that. I can’t sleep when they do that. Hopefully since you are not really injured, they will leave you alone tonight and let you get some real rest.” Natalie said and gave her a gentle hug from behind.
Just then the door cracked open again and Rich said “Can we come in yet?”
“Are you ready?” Natalie asked.
“Sure.” Sam replied, not sure what she was agreeing to or what they wanted to talk to her about.