I look over and meet the most beautiful dark burgundy eyes.
"You okay honey?" Mom's eyes glance back to the road but she watches me closely, concern marring her brows.
I nod, rubbing the sleep from my eyes and stretching the fitful restlessness from my bones. Unfortunately it does little to relief me.
She reached over and gently, with care, squeezed my shoulder. I looked over.
"Nightmare? What about?"
She only has to look over for a moment at the look in my eyes to know the answer.
She shudders. "I know, baby. Believe me I know. Maybe here we can start over fresh."
I can only swallow the bile in the back of my throat, sending my heart pounding forward in my chest, leaving a deafening impression on the inside of my ribs.
"It's okay Annabear..."
I shake my head to force the memory away.
"We need this pack, baby, we can't live without. I wish we could but I'm not strong enough and you're so new to the change still."
I curl my shoulder and hunch down into my seat, letting the seat-belt dig in under my arm. I try again to sleep. The beauty of it has eluded me this last week. It started with the death of my beloved father. It began as I watched the life leave his body.
"Beautiful girl." Alpha. Predator. Sadistic.
He smiles at me. It turns my father into dark fury. It doesn't take his over protective warnings to tell me to be careful to know this new Alpha is danger.
"Be careful Annabear. He has sickness inside him. He is broken and twisted and if you ever find yourself alone with him scream as loud as you can and run. Run for me and I'll protect you."
He said that days before the challenge. But it wasn't really a challenge. No, in a pack battle daddy would have wrecked this vicious animal.
Daddy was always honorable. It was an inner beauty in his soul and it's why he was slaughtered.
The sharp crimson red of blood over his tan complexion. Dull steel gray eyes losing that remarkable honor I've long cherished.
All the while surrounded by the most majestic palette of greens only nature can twirl into existence. My fingers tightened with the urge to work a paint brush.
I never want to give those terrifying colors realism again.
Something jerks me awake. We're still in the car. The ghost of memory spins monsters into the green dark woods. I search the other side of the glass trying to find the innocent love I used to feel when looking to the woods. Nothing but adrenaline and anxiety touched me now. We're following what looks like a curving long driveway farther back into the woods.
The hand shakes me lighter this time but still with worry. I look over.
"You were crying."
I reach up and my fingers come away wet from my cheeks. Guess I was. Exhaustion dogged me for the rest of this unnaturally long drive and yet sleep eluded me.
My mother's face was filled with trepidation as she put the Oldsmobile in park and shut off the overused engine. I searched her lovely face. She carried the refined complexion of any werewolf in her prime. She looked closer to thirty than her actual age.
Her beautiful eyes were tired. She'd just driven from New Mexico to Virginia straight without a wink of sleep.
I asked her how she was holding up. She smiled and caressed my face.
"I'll be just fine sweet child. Now come on, we're already late."
I let myself out and finally looked at this potential home. It was old Victorian but well kept. How cliche I can't help but think. It's almost maroon but a little too dark. Maybe it's age, the over all condition of the two story building was maintained but the paint was weathered more to the right than the left as the house collected more sunlight on that side while the left was primarily shadowed by tall pines and maples. In the front lawn a willow sat by itself. I had the strongest urge to touch it but refrained as mom wrapped an arm around my shoulders and leaned on me.
We left the car behind on the pavement and stepped down onto gravel to reach the front door. It opened before we reached it.
My spine tingled with awareness as we stopped mid step. I took one step in front of my haggard mother to protect her.
"You must be Nicole and Julianna. So good to see you here safe and sound!" The woman said with a bright alluring smile. Her hair was this short bob of strawberry blonde that seemed to glow in the rising sunlight.
"We are. Thank you so much for seeing us. Are you the Alpha's mate, ma'am?"
She laughed and motioned us into the parlor room.
"No, our Alpha Sebastian is unmated. I'm the resident doctor. My name is Gretchen Marshall. It's so nice to meet you."
"You as well. You must be the Gretchen I spoke with on the phone? I know this is all rather sudden but we had to leave our pack."
"That's okay Nicole. I've notified Sebastian. He's made sure to be around the grounds for when you arrive and-"
I turned from them and searched the architecture of the room for some idea of the new pack's style. It was well kept but not overtly pretentious. Signs of yellowing paint told me the house was older and not regularly up kept but there was a distinct lack of dust, cobwebs and dirt. Clean and neat but not compulsive about perfection.
My mother took my hand and gently led me up the stairs leading up from this open parlor. The open breezy doorways led down hallways but I missed the signs of life. We were led up a second set of stairs to a second level. Was there a basement? Four floors was rather spacious and a bit ostentatious. Was that the personality of the Alpha?
Gretchen led us down a hall to a set of double door and knocked once before pushing through to a rather bland looking waiting room then again through a second set of double doors. I was suddenly overwhelmed. Beautiful, vibrant hues welcomed me. Royal decadent purples paired with warm grays colored the entry room of this master suite. A polished swirling marble floor that seemed completely out of the ordinary for this house but it held a luster that stole my eyes. I watch white and light blue strands dance and twist in the marble. I followed it until my mind froze on a set of bare feet. I followed them up with the distinct feel of my heart racing in my chest.
Faded, rough blue jeans topped bare feet, curved loosely over strong legs. Narrow hips but a well strung body barely concealed by the button up shirt tugging at wide shoulders. This man...
There was no mistaking who our new patrons were. The new presences in the room.
My eyes had locked onto none other than the Alpha himself. It had to be him. No one could hold that frame of power and lethality and be anything less than Alpha. He was nothing like I expected. Nothing like what I'd become accustom to.
He watched my mother as she stared at his chest and muttered. I've never seen eyes as piercing as his. They reminded me of chrysocolla, a lustrous green blue stone. It's a otherworldly semi-precious beauty commonly confused with turquoise. His eyes are different, no greens quite match them. Turquoise doesn't do them justice. Maybe because they held no sense of lunacy in them.
They turned to me. And the world froze.
His eyes narrowed but we were locked on. I couldn't look away. I couldn't explain the tight pull in my chest, like my ribs were gripping my heart, crushing it. It didn't hurt but I gasped anyway.
Suddenly my mother's arms were around me and growling vibrated my body. I tore my gaze away and searched the ceiling again searching for breath.
I felt wind on my cheek and turned to the movement. My mother was speaking, her words blowing on my face.
"-very different. Not like anything you've seen."
I pull away and sign to her.
She signed back and then turned to the Alpha.
"What is going on, female?"
I looked to mom as she responded hesitantly. I remember the painfully when she had told the crazed Alpha about my "disability".
"Will her offspring be broken as well?" I flinched at the thought. The sharp taste of bitterness coated my tongue.
"My daughter is deaf. She can't hear."
"What?" Those beautiful unique eyes were swallowed by canary yellow and shock as they looked at me.
"Julianna is deaf and mute."
"How is that possible?"
"That's why her looking you in the eyes, facing you is not a challenge. It's the only way she can understand what's going on."
He looks me straight on, searching me. I can't decipher the emotion in his eyes.
I know he doesn't know I can read lips because he meets my eyes while still talking to my mother and says, "Is she stupid?"
I rear back and spin to my mother and begin signing harshly.
"Did he just call me stupid?"
"Sweetheart please not now." She signed back to me as she spoke allowed.
"I'm not stupid. He's the ignorant dog!"
"You shouldn't say things like that Julianna."
"Don't just stand there! Tell him I understand!"
I turn and sign to him. I know he won't understand but I have to try and do something.
"I am not dumb! I can understand you! Just because I can't hear doesn't mean I'm blind! You are a piece of shit if you think I can't understand!"
He gripped one hand trying to cease my movements, eyes a bright almost neon yellow and tried to speak but I ripped my arm from him and continued ranting the only way I knew how.
This went on for several minutes until my jaw hurt so much from my teeth being clenched. When I finally finished I was heaving, breath rasping like I'd just run a marathon.
My mom's hands gripped my shoulders and shakily drew me back into her and then behind her to protect me from this quiet Alpha's wrath. He seemed to be simmering under the calm. He said nothing. He just stared me down but I refused to be cowed by his glare.
After everything I had just called him my adrenaline was pumping and my heart and mind refused to back down.
He breathed in deep, that intense gaze leaned forward a moment then he said,
"Take them away."
Suddenly the men I had previously been oblivious to descend and led us out. I pulled my mother into my arms when one of the men grasped her arm and she cowered.
She's a submissive. She won't fight you. Don't manhandle her you monster! I wanted to scream but my voice refused and I cursed my deafness.
There was two men and the doctor Gretchen.
As far as I could see everyone stayed silent. Mom asked no question. She seemed less scared by the singular fact that she only barely shook as she curled an arm around my shoulder. I huddled closer, wrapping one arm around her waist. We gripped the other and became the others support and pillar of strength. After father's death sometimes it was all we had. Gretchen smiled sweetly at our gesture of affection and it was the first real distinction about her. She had a beautiful smile. It matched the rest of her soft, gentle, motherly affection-like aura.
I signed to my mother that I loved her.
"I love you too my sweet child."
We were led not to the front door from which we first entered but up a set of stairs.
"Where are we going?"
My mother looked just as uncertain as I was so she reiterated my question to the three others.
The woman was the only one to respond. She looked at me as she spoke.
"Sebastian is very direct. If he had wanted you both gone he wouldn't have just said, 'Take them away.' He wasn't sending you out the door, only away from him. He can be rough around the edges sometimes but he won't send two females out packless."
My mother turned to one of the men but by the time my eyes turned all I caught was the tail end of his words, "-as much as the girl did."
I bit my tongue in frustration. I knew he was talking about me and it annoyed me that people had no decorum.
Clean but older wallpaper adorned the walls in this upstairs hallway. A rich and lightly faded burgundy with a light cream carpet. It was also dulled by the incessant foot traffic but at one time it had been extravagant and beautiful. Several closed doors followed the hall, all similar and approximately the same distance apart. We were stopped in front of one. The woman spoke first as the taller of the males, this one had a long mess of blonde hair pulled haphazardly into a ponytail, unlocked the door. From the outside. It sent cold shivers up my spine.
"While our Alpha decides how to handle your situation you'll be give shelter and food. You'll be kept here for yours and our packs protection. This way."
She gestured for us to move into the room first. Naturally mom being my protective momma bear went first but no rabid angry wolves jumped out. The room was tastefully decorated but lack any real personality. Art on the walls, flowers and color but missing the warmth of a personal touch.
I turn to the woman and found her speaking to mom.
"-will be brought to you three times a day but Sebastian is a very reasonable man. Best guess is you'll be out of here before dinner." Her easy smile and gentle brown eyes seemed to put mom at ease. She nodded and the woman closed the door behind her. She turned to me, "They locked the door."
I tossed my hand in a frustrated gesture.
"What do they expect us to do? Savage them? This is bullshit."
Now she spoke aloud but continued signing.
"We need them, Julianna."
"How do we know they're any different than the old pack?"
"We don't but this Sebastian seems a logical, sane wolf. He will be fair. Beside we aren't strong enough to survive without protection."
Even I agreed with her there. Mom had backbone, especially when it came to me and my well-being, but she had no whiff of Alpha in her. She was as submissive a wolf could be. I wasn't Alpha and I wanted no part of this. We'd grieve over dad, toughen up and leave this place. Maybe we could try to be human, pretend and leave this wolf insanity behind us. Last thing mom needs is male wolves messing with her. Last thing I need was to let my anger at a certain Alpha get us kicked out or worse.
We spent that afternoon and early evening in the locked room that I'd found had no windows. Decorative curtains gave the room a deceptively open feel but behind them led to nothing but more wallpaper. This just fueled my fury. Lies. Deceit. Stupidity. Anger and it was all focus on one man. I could practically feel the steam coming out of my ears. I occupied myself by searching the attached cozy sized bathroom with some basic amenities included like soap and shampoo. They'd made this place barely livable for situations like ours. I gritted my teeth as I paced the length of both rooms.
It felt like days passed before my mom bounced up from where she'd been sitting on the queen sized bed, eyes focused on the door. It opened and the second male from earlier stepped into view. This one was of average height and look infinitely younger, almost my age. He had dirty blonde hair and full lips under high cheekbones.
"Come female, Sebastian would like to speak with you."
We both move forward when the man raises a hand to stop me. Mom freezes.
"Only you. The girl stays."
I sign to mom frantically. She kisses my forehead and gently pats my cheek.
"Stay here. Be good. I'll be back."
I was gasping, scared for her and frantic to not be left in the cage alone. She smiled softly, eyes pained and then left with the male.
I immediately went to the door and pressed my hands and cheek to it but the movement had quickly faded on the other side of the wood.
I quickly stripped my clothes and begun my change. No matter what happened, if by chance my mother wasn't the one that returned first I wanted to be at my strongest. I would be ready. I would be waiting.
It was a mousy woman with long free flowing curly black hair that unlocked and step in next seemingly hours later. She carried a tray with a succulent heavy steak and veggies on a platter. When she saw me she jumped, dropping the tray, in surprise. It may have been my hiss, but I can't be too sure. The door immediately closed. I eyed the food, all those sweet, hot juices soaking into the wood floor slowly. The scent of fresh meat curled around my nose, enticing me but my stubborn will refused to give in. Eating it felt too much like defeat, giving in.
Suddenly the door flew open.
Mr. Alpha filled the doorway. His growl shook the floor. He spoke,
"Female. Change back now."
I shook my head violently. I rumbled low for my mother. The sounds that shook my chest felt strange. She wiggled by the man and appear beside me to take my giant head in her arms. She scattered kisses over my ear, tickling the sensitive hairs there.
"She is deaf in this form as well?"
I only presume my mother told him because he nodded.
I huffed. My eyes roll to my mother when she begins speaking.
"She very rarely changes, Alpha. It is very hard for her still."
"She only made her first change a little over a year ago and she refuses to change because it's harder still for her to communicate in this form."
He looks to me, "Then why is she this way now?"
I lift a paw and unsheathed my claws. Hissing I point them at him.
You wolf, are the reason. You I don't like.
He cocked his head.
He turns away from me and to my mother.
"We are agreed then. I couldn't do that to you in good conscience but teach your pup some manners and respect. If she scares one the young again she'll be declawed."
I reared back and blinked surprised.
He looked shortly at me, eyes cold.
I leaned forward and bared my teeth then snapped them.
No translation needed.
His lips thinned and he closed the door but not before turning his back on me.
I shook with annoyance. Asshole.
Gretchen showed up maybe an hour later. She worked as a human nurse in the maternity ward of the local hospital. She took classes to specialize in children, infants and maternity. Or something like that. I only caught part of what she said as she took us out of the prison room and back to the ground floor. She gave us a short tour of the main pack rooms including the expansive kitchen complete with joyful faces and bright eyes as women fed their young and people shuffled about. They smiled happily at us, waving and introducing themselves. I was well aware that none of them knew I was deaf and mother did not tell them. The common area with couches, tables and a section fenced off for the children to play in. It was filled with bright colors and child like figures and kids games.
We were shown a classroom. The walls were lined with bookcases filled with what I assume to be textbooks. In the classroom a couple of girls a few years younger than me played music from a radio. I felt the vibration with them and stuffed down the yearning for hearing. With it brought my urge to paint and I refused that all together. Mom began to tear up as she brushed her fingers on the child-like drawings done by toddler by the door. It was her joy at the sight that had her squeezing my hand. Gretchen said that the pups we're taught here before she breezed through and swept us out of the room.
"The other main entertainment room is this way. For the most part the older stay in the first room and the younger pups spend their time here." She motioned us after her as she stepped through the open doorway. As far as we've come there's been no doors. Every threshold was open keeping the whole of the ground floor airy and free moving.
I could feel the pause of movement as we entered. There was several people here, all roughly my age. Four females and three males. The youngest seemed to be maybe thirteen, a female and the oldest no more than nineteen, a male.
Two males stood around a worn pool table, racking the balls to begin a new game, with them a girl hung around watching and chattering. The youngest female, a short freckled red head, sat on a plush green couch with a book and by the look of it she was almost done.
The others had pulled several couches together and had been laughing and talking animatedly with each other. That was until we entered.
"Hello," Gretchen beamed at my peers, "These are the new pack members, say hello to Nicole and her daughter Julianna."
Several mouths mumbled back at us and my mother smiled, waving shortly. I eyed all these people, searching them and gauging their responses. I saw one of the boys elbow the other and nods to me, murmuring in a way I couldn't read his lips.
My mother took my hand and when I looked back Gretchen was leading us out of the room and back the way we came. I followed her lead but not before glancing back. They watched me with much the same gauging response. I watch the two boys giving me a curling smile.
When we were farther away, enough I assume the boys couldn't hear mom spoke to me,
"Stay away from the boys, Julianna. I don't like how they looked at you."
She didn't have to tell me twice. No way was I looking for any way to further weave myself into this pack's fold. In fact I plan on doing everything I can to separate myself from it. I just nodded and when my mother looked at Gretchen so did I.
"The pups here are good, smart. They are just excited to see a new person their age. I imagine it can be hard for them to stay on the ground so much."260Please respect copyright.ＰＥＮＡＮＡb0xIVA1sVV
"What do you mean?" Mom asked with a frown.
"We teach all ages here. Sebastian insists that all children, no matter the age, be home-schooled. It's safer for our and human children alike. We have several teachers here that divide the school subjects between them."
Mom looked at me and I was too busy trying not to choke. I'd live here and stay here. I'd never have a reason to leave. I swallowed back bile and the feeling of suffocating. Maybe it wouldn't be as bad as the last pack. We weren't allowed to communicate with the outside world when dad had been alive but at least here we're educated.
"Learning a human's education is to put ourselves on their level. They are ignorant. They are stupid. They are sheep. We are predators. We are nature. We learn to hunt. We learn to kill. We do as our ancestors have always done and that is the way of things. Nothing more."
That's what our crazed old Alpha used to decree and from that we lived a dark life. We could not think for ourselves. We could not question. No freedom. No light.
Were we walking out of one prison into another?