I'm behind my mother in an instant and it leaves me frustratingly blind to her half of the conversation. Interestingly enough while he speaks to her his eyes never leave mine as he scrutinizes me.
"I need to speak with your daughter."
"Yes, about what happened earlier."
Did I mention it's really annoying seeing only one half of a conversation?
"I'm not sure."
I jerk around her and watch her speak.
"She's been severely shaken up over this and, Alpha or not, she is my daughter." Her eyes were straining, burgundy against neon yellow. I put my hand on her arm.
"I assure you, Mrs. Roth, I have no intention of harming your daughter. Merely to speak with her."
We stood there as they merely stopped speaking and I'd felt like I'd miss something important until he sighed, chest heaving.
"Alone, Mrs. Roth."
"Can it not wait? Dinner is ready and this is very sudden."
"I think it's best Julianna and I clear this matter up now."
My mind was certainly boggled at this point. What the hell did he think we were going to speak about? Especially like that, like I'd comply with whatever he had in mind. He could shove it. This was none of his business. He should have never been in the garage in the first place, touching my things.
"It's fine mom. I'll be down in a second. Let me straighten this out please."
She glanced between the Alpha and me before she began signing back,
"Julianna, this is not a good idea. What is really going on here?"
"He saw the painting of Daniel, mom, he probably wants to know why I have it. He wants answers but I'll tell him it's none of his business and we'll be down shortly."
"Ma'am, I promise you this. I only want to speak with her and I won't take a second more of your time. I understand this is a delicate matter but this is my pack and when it comes to any uncertain matters it's my responsibility to settle them. Now if you'd kindly close the door behind you." It didn't takes hearing to know that was nothing short of a solid order he gave my mother.
"I'll wait outside Julianna if you need anything." My mother says watching the Alpha like he was an unknown predator. He was. He watched me, eyes staying focused on me. I nodded to mom and she hesitated for a long moment, fighting herself but ultimately slipping out the door and slowly closing it.
"First, I wanted to give this back to you." My eyes zoomed down to his hand when he carried my painting half behind him. He stretched and held it over the expanse between us. He gauged me, analyzing me and it made me damn near twitchy.
Eventually I gave him the sign and followed it with mouthing the words,
And there we stood still and silent not quite sure where to go from here. I took a step forward and motioned for him to follow me. The hairs on my neck prickled having him behind me but I slipped around him and out the door not checking to see if he followed me. I nod and smile to my mom but don't stop to fulfill her curiosity. I step into my room and move to put the painting into my box reminding myself to tear it up and trash it first chance.
When I turned back he was here staring at the ceiling with the same expression I imagine I have when I look to it.
"You read lips right? That's what people are saying."
He must have seen my confusion as lack of understand because he repeated his question but much slower. I glared already frustrated by his mere existence.
I motion writing on my palm with a pen and he nods. Disappearing out the door, he doesn't even close it behind him. Mom popped her head in but when I explained what he was doing she nodded and ducked back out. I blew her a kiss and she caught it with a smile.
I run my hand in my hair and yank at the end trying to relieve my stress. I look to the pictures again and huff. Maybe it would have been better if he'd kept the damn picture then I wouldn't have had to trash it myself. I hate throwing away my paintings.
I sense movement and turn to find the Alpha carrying a pencil and notebook. Reaching out he puts it in my palm.
Thank you for my picture back and I can read lips perfectly fine.
I show him the paper. I watched his eyes trail over my written words.
"Good. I wanted to say I'm sorry for earlier, out in the garage. My sister was coming into town and I picked her up from the airport. She flew from California where her mate is. Anyway we pulled in and you were shaking."
I find his apology intriguing, it was not what I expected. I try to muster up some good diplomacy. Nodding, I began to write,
I apologize for that. I did not mean to freak out. Since I can't hear I don't like it when people come up from behind me.
"That's understandable. I did not mean to take your painting and I had no right to touch it, it just... shocked me is all."
I watched this man talk, all along he was unaware just how much he both confused and surprised me. He wasn't like the Alphas I'd come to know. He was arrogant and authoritative yes, but nothing like the pig headed, obscene males of my old pack.
Daniel was my old Alpha. We left the pack and came here.
"Your mother said you were from New Mexico but not much else. I suspected but your painting and response confirmed it."
He stopped speaking, mouth moving like he couldn't figure out what to say next.
I don't know why but I wrote,
I thought you were like him, Daniel. I thought all Alphas were like him. He's all I've really known.
"I can't imagine the pain that has caused you."
A lump in my throat had me swallowing hard.
No, you can't.
He read my words for a long moment, nodding like he was taking them in.
"Are you running away from him, from the Black Hills pack, from what they've done?"
And the anger was roaring in my chest again. I stomped my foot and bared my teeth. I tossed the paper aside done with his question and intrusion. This was our privacy, my mother and my lives, not something he can just waltz in and stick his fingers in as he pleases.
I dismissed him with a cut of my hand through the air and tried to walk around him.
"Where are you going?" He asked surprised, probably because I'd intended to just toss him aside.
I shook my head but he caught my arm and held me in place.
I hissed, pushing air through my teeth and mouthed for him to let me go.
"Why do you always run away?"
I don't know what happened next but I shoved him with all my might into the wall by the door. He fell hard against it totally caught off guard. I was a measly five foot four to his almost six foot so he towered over me but it did nothing to stop me from getting in his face and staring him down.
Time falters and slipped away. He'd leaned in, his body readying to fight but his eyes were still that glowing beautiful jewel color. While my eyes shift, my mind not yet in control of my mood shifts like he was. I felt my fingers shift as my wolf sensed distressed and yet we stayed in this static hiatus.
Have you ever had a moment where everything just stopped?
I didn't breathe. His eyes froze on me, the world just hesitated for a second. I was painfully aware of my sweaty palms and heart thundering. Then like a freight train it came back. His breath fanned my face. I inhaled through clenched teeth furious this man thought he could just open and read me like a book. Like I would dance to his tune. Every time we were in the same room with each other he infuriated me.
"Who are you?" I saw disbelief on his face as his pupils dilated and his lips parted.
I wanted to slap him stupid but instead I spun away, stalking to the notebook thrown onto the bed. I scribbled furiously, digging the tip in so hard at the end the pencil lead broke. I strode back over and shoved the paper into his chest.
Shoving by him and he didn't try to stop me but the mixture of emotions struck me something fierce. I can't explain it. This man did something hazardous to me. My control. My calm. My rationality. It burned away when he spoke. I felt like a dangerous force of nature, unsettling even myself when he's around. The devil I'd grown up with had taught me well how to hide my emotions, how to continue through life almost apathetically. To give away emotion was a vulnerability and when you live with a sadistic killer who's collared an entire pack, one who feeds off fear and pain you walk one of two paths.
Fail and fall, give in to the terror, cower under his boot and suffer every waking moment.
Fight. Feed your strength. Empower your will and starve your fears.
My mother sees my strength as reckless. I see it in a different light. My father died trying to kill a rapist. My mother is all I have left and I have to take care of her now that my father can't but still I refuse bend my knee to another male, especially another Alpha. My strength may be reckless but it was my strength that's kept me alive after my father died. My father always said,
"Adaptability is survivability. Sometimes you have to be a monster to fight the devil but remember it's easy to lose who you are. Fight the monsters but never play with them."
I knew my mother was on my heels as I stormed down the hallway. I knew she was waiting and watching me, analyzing me and making her own assumptions.
When he didn't follow I knew that those enchanting chrysocolla eyes were reading my words as they drifted through my mind again.
Respect is earned and you have not yet earned my words or my silence.
I wanted nothing to do with my mother's words which I knew was not fair at all. I knew what it was like to only know half the situation and I knew she was only trying to protect me just like I wanted to protect her but I only seemed to be failing. Exploding on the Alpha of this pack did nothing good for us and attacking him? When the adrenaline faded I might actually be nervous as to what he would do but for now I felt red hot and couldn't banish his words from my mind.
"Who are you?"
I shook my head and smiled at mom before we slipped into the dining hall where the floor vibrated beneath my feet from the mass of pack members chatting and laughing together. All unaware of the conflict that had just unfolded. There was plenty of people here, most of which I'd come to put names to faces. There was a solid twenty or so people already beginning to dig in to the food that controlled the majority of the table. Steaming piles of corn on the cob and green beans with delicious baked chicken and roast beef beside homemade bread and buns. And just in case you mistake this for anything less that a Pack house, several large plates of steaks and a huge bowl of mash potatoes and gravy sat on a side tables because the main table was full. The scent of seasoning and butter pulled me to a pair of empty seats with a couple of girls on one side and Maggie the Math and science teacher on the other. Maggie waved at mom and they immediately begin their own chatter, mom's face lighting up in a way I rarely see anymore. It twisted my heart and brought the guilt on hard.
I needed to do better. I had to be better. I sighed and swallowed back the bitter feeling when I resigned myself with the need to apologize to the Alpha, again.
Mom turned to me, "Would you get me steak?"
"Two please, thank you baby."
I slipped over into the short line after grabbing two plates. I was next in line when that wave of power wafted over me. It made the hairs on my neck stand up and when I looked behind me there he stood. I couldn't stop myself from jumping, heart lurching forward.
"Sorry, I didn't mean to scare you."
I frowned. Why was he apologizing?
I mouthed slowly, Sorry, for before. I kept my eyes down, trying to be submissive and non confrontational.
I don't know what tipped me off but he started laughing and I could feel it. I looked up.
"Acting meek? From you?" And he smiled. Have I ever seen him smile? I turned away and gathered my mother's steak, then my mash potatoes and left him in my wake without a backwards glance. I caught both my mother and Maggie watching me, knowing they saw the entire scene. I shook my head, gave her her plate and avoided her eyes for the rest of dinner.
I'd managed to be free of everyone until halfway through dinner I felt a hesitant tap to my left. When I looked over one of the other girls from class, Zara, was scooting in close her eyes were a bright feral yellow that told me she was an adult, one of the changed like me. She had this ghostly smile. I gave her a quizzical look. From what I've learned of all my fellow students, they seem like good people. The boys were flirtatious as I've read in books but not forceful like the young had learned from the elders of my old pack. These girl were wholesome, wild and nice in a rough way.
"Beck and I were dying of curiosity as to why Sebastian is staring at you."
I swallowed my tongue. I hadn't looked at him all dinner, manage to avoid all contact with him with exception of the steak incident. I glanced over to confirm and- yep he's definitely watching me and now Zara with intensity. From the other end of this seemingly smaller and smaller dining room table, the Alpha Sebastian sat with his fingers knitted and his chin resting on them. He seemed almost lazy, relaxed but like with a patient wolf, it was a deceptive calm. The muscle in his forearms and biceps were heavy and strong but lax while his shoulders carried a tense coiled power. I watched the muscle in his jaw flex under skin before his eyes shifted back to me. I turned away and found Zara watching him with the poorly hidden desire. When I glanced around her to Beck, another girl a couple years older than me with the same auburn hair as Zara, I saw the unstable want in her caramel gaze.
"He's watched you from the moment he walked in."
I mouthed, "How do you know?"
I had to mouth it again before she got it. She blushed and grinned.
"Because I've been watching him."
I wondered why she wanted him in an off-handed moment. What was it about him that she found attractive. Sure he was physically good looking, of that there was no doubt.
Did she want him for his looks? His strength and intelligence?
Mom always told me a well matched pair would balance each other. They wouldn't be the same but opposite sides of a coin.
She's told me stories of outlandish matings, some were fairy tales, others real, as flesh and blood as myself.
The most mind boggling of them all was the story of Alpha-Hybrid Dowanhowee and her True Mate, the vampire Warden Daem'an. It was romantic really but a wild tale of their struggles and the battle with the famed Council who was defeat a few years before I was born.
When I told my mom I didn't believe her, no sane wolf would mate a vampire, her response was,
"It's hard to say never in a world owned by possibilities. More than half the wolves in the world go their entire lives without finding their True Mates. When you find them though, my mother told me it was like a shooting star burning through a lightless universe. True Mates are unique, different than what you know and very rarely what you expected. They bring you to life in a way you never knew you were hollow. They are your sun."
Somehow I highly doubt Zara and Sebastian were True Mate.
An absurd thought struck me. I wondered what Sebastian looked for in a mate? She would be his equal. Did Alphas have equals? I looked at him again and found his eyes had not once strayed from me. I wondered who would he be if he found his other half. Would he smile more? He had a handsome smile. Would he be so confrontational? I can't imagine he'd be less of a busy body. Would he be controlling with his mate like he is with his life? I scowled at my thought which meant I scowled at him.
His eyes narrowed and he leaned forward in the slightest.
Another tap on my shoulder.
"So a bunch of us are going to go into town and hang out, do you like wanna come with?"
I blinked confused. Going into town?
I glance at mom but she was laughing with Maggie so I turned back to Zara and shrugged.
"Awesome. We're gonna leave in a couple hours. Meet you in the foyer?"
I nod and did my best to focus only on my plate for the rest of the evening. It was harder still to ignore the intense pressure from his eyes burning the side of my skull.
I watched one of the older boys, Allen, howl his enjoyment as my peers gathered in the front room. I watched Zara and Beck from dinner giggle with a blonde girl a little younger than them. I think her name is Hannah or Heather. I was watching them when, from my peripheral, I saw Zack also known as "Zero" enter the room from the stairs. I had yet to figure out the back story of that particular nickname. The first time I'd seen Zack was from that first day in Harry's English class. He'd looked at me for a long moment when I'd sat down next to him.
This time he gave me a half smirk then moved over to Allen's side. They murmured something to each other I didn't catch before Allen waved everyone out and howled again. The sound-motion surrounded me as others around me howled back. We moved out into the faded sunlight as one, a mass of smells and strength. As we made our way towards the woods, not to the garage, alarms went off in my head. I glanced around as others began stripping, faces laughing and bright.
"Hey!" Zara moved in, bumping into me as we all jogged into the trees.
She must have took my confusion in because she pushed me playful.
"We change and run to town, it's like ten miles away. Way too long of a walk."
My heart burned. Embarrassment froze the blood in my veins.
"I'll wait for you." She said softly with a reassuring smile.
"Me too, I'm still kind slow too." The blonde chirped on Zara's other side.
"Thanks, Hillary." So not Hannah or Heather. Opps.
I did the sign then mouthed thank you.
"So this is the sign for 'thank you'?" Zara asked and then mimicked me.
I nodded with a smile.
"What about 'you're welcome'?"
I mouthed, same. I did the sign again.
"So whoever does it first is saying 'thank you' and whoever does it second is saying 'you're welcome'?"
I grinned, nodded and gave her a thumbs up.
"Awesome!" Hillary said brightly.
"Everyone's starting to change. Come on, let's go."
Friends. I had friends. The idea did something incredible to my nerves as I lifted my shirt over my head.
Hillary points to "Zero" as we trot down the busy sidewalk of Charlottesville. Zara told me humans are celebrating Valentine's Day today as she wiggled her brows, which made Beck and Hillary giggle. I just nod and breath in the cool evening air.
"He's like nineteen and so not into younger-"
"Hey! I'm fifteen, not that much younger!"
"Young enough, he hits on Riley and she's twenty seven."
Zack looked back at us with this amused face and caught my eye. I poked Hillary on my right and pointed. The girls looked again and shrieked when they caught him watching. Hillary blushed deeply and looked down at the ground. I put an arm around her narrow shoulders and smiled. She grinned up the few inches difference between us before put her arm lighting around my hip and we all walked for the next several hours laughing and making good memories. It was a singular moment in my thoughts. I spent that night feeling free, light for the first real time in my life. Even the running, oh the running. It felt like something extraordinary running with others. Now I can see the addiction. Running with a pack. A single heart. The thunder of heels pounding. Shaking the earth. It made you feel powerful. Even I howled once and the wolves around me yip and played in response. It was nirvana, I finally felt warm, like I wasn't alone anymore.
It was well past two in the morning when we slipped in the front down, others muffling their laughter. Some separate from the group seeking their beds or the beds of others while the rest started for the kitchen to raid the fridge and pantry.
I ruffled Hillary's hair and we stuck out our tongues at each other. Waving goodbye I parted from the girls and moved up the stairs to my room. I glanced over but no lights glowed under my mother's door. I blew her a quick kiss before slipping into my room. My eyes immediately fell on the slip of paper that someone had slid under the door while I'd been gone. Picking it up I sniffed it but the scent of the sender has already faded away.
Slowly using my finger the break the seal of tape, I opened it. The simple words gently crawled took my breath away.
Teach me.ns 184.108.40.206da2