It was warm. That was enough of a surprise. The people staring at me from the end of the bed, and the wolf curled up near my feet, almost paled in comparison to the fact that I was warm. And not naked. Surprise number two.
Then someone touched me and I was out of the bed and growling like a feral dog, which is the most surprising thing of all. I hadn’t been on my feet in months.
Everyone froze, a few even averting their gaze in submission, as I got control of myself.
“Hello,” a woman who looked like a doctor stepped forward. “My name is Angela. I’m the doctor who’s been taking care of you.”
She took a step forward and I growled again, this time deliberately, and she took the hint. No one moved.
I took stock of my body, moving my wrists and ankles to make sure there wasn’t going to be too much pain for me to run or fight if I had to.
Spying clothes stacked on a chair to my right, I quickly grabbed them and backed into the bathroom, firmly shutting and locking the door behind me. I turned the shower to nearly full heat, not even caring about the burn as I stepped under it, or the pain as it ran over my injuries. The warmth went bone deep and when I washed my hair…it was pure luxury. I sat on the closed toilet lid, just wrapped in the towel and breathing in the steam from the shower I left on. I don’t know how long I sat there but when I was ready I got the clothes on faster than I thought possible. Long, tight black jeans and a dark green sweater. I didn’t bother with the bra or underwear, that would have taken more time than I was willing to waste. The socks were heavenly on my freezing feet and when I stepped into a pair of ankle boots and tucked the jeans into them I just about cried from the joy of it. My whole body ached, even more so after I drowned it in hot water, but I was standing and I wasn’t in chains. That was definitely a win for me.
I wonder how long I’ve been here. My wounds are closed over, my bruising an ugly greeny-yellow. The more severe bruising no longer a deep black, but an angry purplish red. My broken bones have been set and there are stitches and staples everywhere. I can clearly see the tiny marks where stitches and staples have been removed when the wound healed enough.
There was a soft knock at the door not long after I sat back down, and a voice that was vaguely familiar floated through the wood.
“Are you alright in there, Willow?”
He’s calling me Willow again.
I opened the door, to his surprise apparently, and just stared at him. He seemed familiar somehow, but my addled brain simply couldn’t figure it out just yet. He froze when I opened the door, breathing deep and just staring at me. Then a woman walked up beside him and tucked herself right up against his side, staring at me just like he was. I take as step back into the bathroom, putting enough space between us that I’d be able to defend myself.
“I’m so sorry,” said the woman in a soft voice. “We didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”
She gave me a watery smile and stepped back, pulling the massive guy with her. She has red hair a few shades lighter than mine and big blue eyes that are brimming with tears. She looks short in comparison to the near seven-foot-tall man she’s clinging to. His eyes are a gorgeous emerald green and his hair so black it looks blue when the light hits it. He’s built like a brick shit house and he doesn’t have to say a damn thing for me know that he’s the Alpha. I’m in a room full of werewolves and I feel my own wolf rise in response to his gaze. She’s on the defensive and if I wasn’t so thrilled to be wearing clothes I would had stripped off and changed then and there.
To my surprise, the Alpha doesn’t respond to me with violence. In fact, he looks almost proud as my wolf vibrates in my chest.
“How are you feeling?” The doctor spoke up again. “I can give you something if you’re in pain.”
“You will never drug me,” I growled, feeling my eyes change as my wolf came out to glare at her.
I didn’t mean to speak. I had every intention of not saying a single word to whoever these people were and getting the hell out of dodge, but my cranky self couldn’t help it.
The woman flinches and drops to one knee, the man damn near beaming at me.
This was turning out to be a confusing day.
I’d already spoken, so I figured I may as well get some information out of them.
“Where am I and who are you?” I demanded.
“You’re in Louisiana,” said the man. “My name is Julian and I’m the Alpha.”
“I figured that out for myself. Who. Are. You?” I growled more violently.
“I’m your father,” he whispered.
“And I’m Maria, your mother,” said the small woman tucked into his side.
I’m proud to say that my mind didn’t shut down and go blank at this point. I took in their appearances, noting the resemblance to me. Her hair so similar to mine, his eyes being a reflection of mine. I had her elegant nose and his full lips. It seemed plausible to me and it explained why they seemed so familiar to me, especially after I caught a slight whiff of their scent and recognised the similar notes in theirs that are present in mine.
I don’t seem to able to feel as of yet, which is fine with me. The trauma can come later. Remaining emotionless is good for now.
“How old am I?”
It’s not a question I meant to ask, but I couldn’t help it. I never had a birthday so I have no idea. I’d guessed about twenty-three and, as is the nature of guesses, it isn’t precise.
A tear finally falls down Maria’s cheek as she answers my question.
“You were born on October 31st, 1995,” she said.
“What’s the date?”
The looks on their faces were a mix of shock and pain, which I didn’t understand. They weren’t in that basement with me, what right do they have to my pain?
“It’s-” Julian started but had to restart as his answer seemed to get caught in his throat. “It’s February 18th, 2016.”
If my wolf wasn’t set on showing no weakness in front of an Alpha I may have collapsed. I was in that basement for nearly four months.
I nodded to the people in the room and walked out of the clinic, but the fresh air had me clinging to the door frame. I could smell flowers, the damp soil of the forest, flowers. I had always loved flowers. I followed my nose to an incredible flower garden a few hundred metres from the clinic. Jasmine, Gardenia, Frangipani, Cherry Blossom, so many Roses, Lavender. I could even smell Orange Blossoms coming from the small orchard in the corner where I could see a gorgeous assortment of incredible fruit trees. I was shocked to feel a tear slide down my cheek but it didn’t stop me from walking into the garden and sitting down in the flower bed, surrounding myself in the most amazing mix of scents I could remember.
I don’t remember how long I sat in the garden but, when I looked up, the sun was setting and the man who got me from the basement was sitting a few metres in front of me
He was watching me with a small smile on his face.
“You used to come out here when you were little,” he said. “You never picked a flower, you just did what you’re doing now. You’d just sit and breath them in.”
When I was little? He must have seen the confusion on my face, because he continued like nothing was weird about any of this.
“You were taken from here when you were three,” he said, his eyes flashing a little with his wolf. “We weren’t able to track you, but we’ve been trying ever since. We should have had you back a long time ago.”
His voice trails off into silence as he watches me, waiting for a reaction. I didn’t know how I was supposed to react. He got a little twitchy when I didn’t respond.
“Is there anything you would like to ask?”
So many things.
“Who are you?” seemed an appropriate question to start with.
He smiled at me, dimples popping up in the centre of his cheeks.
“My name is Clayton. We used to run around this place when we were kids. I’m a few years older than you are, but we were great friends pretty much the moment you were born.”
It rang a bell. A fuzzy memory of a laughing, brown haired boy running ahead of me, the same little boy using his extra height over me to reach up and take a flower off a bush and hand it to me.
“You are the one who found me.”
“Yes,” an intriguing display of emotions crossed over his face. Rage, pain, sadness. He even blushed a little, which I’m assuming is because he’s literally seen every part of me courtesy of the way I was chained to that fucking bed. “How are you feeling?”
For some reason I wanted to answer him. I stared at him for a moment, trying to figure out what it was about him that made me, and my wolf, want to talk to him. His hair was a dark chocolate colour, his eyes a bright amber. His face the kind of face that displays expressions that are either friendly or terrifying, but rarely anything in between. He was waiting patiently for me to decide what I wanted to do, but the slight shine in his iris that announced the presence of his wolf told me he was much more worked up than he wanted me to know.
“Who is Willow?” I asked, deciding to delay answering anything about me and trying to get information out of him instead. My question surprised him but he answered anyway.
“You’re Willow. You were named Willow Emilia Faelyn by your parents,” he spoke softly, giving me a little bit of my past and a beautiful name to take if I wanted it.
“They called me Margaret,” I said bluntly, my hatred of the name clear. If they did what I asked and called me Maggie, then maybe I wouldn’t have hated it so much. But they would only ever refer to me as Margaret.
He wrinkles his nose in sympathetic distaste, but doesn’t say anything. I finally notice a couple sitting on a bench on the other side of the garden and, recognising them as my ‘Parents’, decide to wave them over. They tentatively come to sit on the ground beside Clayton, walking slowly like I’m going to bolt at any moment.
“How did I end up with them?” I ask, deciding to take advantage of the calm that came over me when I sat down in this garden bed and the damn near emotionless clarity of my mind right now.
“We still don’t know how they managed to do it,” says Maria. My Mother. That’s a helluva trip after being told all my life that my mother died giving birth to me.
“You were out playing with some of the children, I could hear you giggling through my office window,” my Father’s gaze seems to drift with his memory, his eyes getting a little watery. He clears his throat and gives me a sheepish smile before he continues. “I always loved hearing you laugh. You were always so happy. We didn’t worry when we couldn’t find you. I just thought you’d wondered off again to play with flowers or one of the deer that live in the forest. You did that a lot.”
“We weren’t sure you were a wolf half the time,” my Mother laughs. “Predators don’t have such easy relationships with wildlife, even the baby predators. But not you, my baby had a green thumb at birth and she never saw an animal that didn’t love her.”
My parents, being silenced by their bittersweet memories, cling to one another for comfort and nod to their Beta to continue.
“We couldn’t find you. We searched all your favourite places, scoured every inch of the woods, but you were just…gone. A team of trackers and hunters was eventually set up whose sole task was to scour the planet for you.”
I’m surprised to hear such pain in his voice. There is emotion in this pack and it’s so unfamiliar. I’m used to Alphas and Betas being cold and practical and brutal.
I let silence sit for a moment as I absorb that information, the scent from the orchards across the garden blowing my way with the breeze.
“Who are they really? The wolves who had me?”
To my surprise, that makes them more uncomfortable talking about that than they were when I asked about my kidnapping.
“Maybe we should talk about them later,” Maria suggests. “Perhaps we’ll get you settled first and we can talk again when you’ve had time to adjust.”
I have no intention of staying long enough to get comfortable.
“Please don’t take this the wrong way, I understand that this will be hard on you,” I say, trying to be diplomatic without sounding like I’m issuing a challenge. “But I need to know. Whatever trauma you think I need to work through is done. I spent four months chained in a basement, now I’m out and I need to know about the people who put me there.”
I’m aware of the thread of dominance in my tone as I get the words out, but it doesn’t have the negative effect on them as it would have had on the other wolves in my life. Instead of intimidation I’m met with…I don’t what that is. I’m not familiar with their expressions.
“Okay,” Julian says, if a little reluctantly. “The pack who took you are the Moon Called. The pack consists of wolves who are half human. Their wolves are weaker than ours and they have no control over them, only able to change on the full moon. That’s what makes them Moon Called. For all they lack with their wolves they tend to make up for in sheer aggression. It doesn’t help that they can’t breed wolves. They can only produce human offspring.”
“I suppose that explains the purpose of taking me.”
And it does. They couldn’t breed more wolves to fill out the ranks themselves, so they took me to use when they decided I was old enough. I’m a pure wolf, supposedly, and I guess they wanted to see if they could get them out of me.
I suppose I just have one more question then.
“If I tried to leave, would you stop me?”