June 17th –
“What are mates?” I asked Sam the next afternoon. We were having a picnic in the garden. He looks at me confused.
“Where on earth did you hear that phrase?” he asked, taking a bite of an apple. I had heard the term used a lot over the last few days. Ever since June had used that term, I kept hearing it muttered by people under their breaths as I wandered the enormous house trying to make myself useful. Most of the time, I just ended up in the nursery playing with the children. I wasn’t favorite aunt for nothing.
“Just around. People keep calling me ‘The Master’s Mate’ under their breath and some of them won’t even look me in the eye.” Sam chuckled, though I didn’t see the humor in our situation. It felt like the time my skirt was tucked into my tights and everyone saw my underwear. Here, I felt too confused to be humiliated.
“In our culture,” Sam said softly. “We believe that when you meet the person, you’re supposed to spend your forever with, they are your mate.”
“Wait… Are we talking like soulmates or the way Australians call their best friends mate?” I ask. Sam fell back laughing.
“Soulmates, darling.” He pulled himself back into a seated position. His handsome face grew serious. “You are my soulmate, Katie.”
“Oh.” In retrospect, I will admit not the best reaction on my part. Soulmates. The leap to soulmate status is a HUGE leap from just being promoted to girlfriend. I like Sam. He makes me feel safe and cherished, but we’ve only known each other for a few weeks. It takes me longer to decide on which laundry detergent to buy. Before Sam, my longest committed relationship was with my favorite yoga pants.
“Oh?” Sam asked, worried. “Is that all you can say?” He shifted me so I know sat on his lap. I could feel my heart pound madly in my chest.
“This is just a bit much for me, Sammy,” I reply, touching his stubbly cheek. “I like you like, I like like you, but we’ve only known each other for a few weeks.” What scared me the most about this whole situation was the whole cosmic significance of the term soul mates. I wanted to choose to be in a relationship with someone, not be forced together like ill-fitting puzzle pieces.
Sam kissed the palm of my hand. “Don’t worry, my darling. We have all the time in the world.”
Sam disappeared a few hours later to deal with his “work”, while I wandered around the grounds. He made me promise that I wouldn’t try to run away again. I remembered the terrifying bay of wolves and promised that I wouldn’t.
The longer I stayed at Sam’s house, the more things still didn’t make sense. Sam wouldn’t tell me exactly what he did for a living, but the people deferred to him like he was some kind of king. I had gone from kidnap victim to girlfriend to soulmate in just a few days. Sam was everything I’d ever dreamt about for my future husband when I was younger, but he seemed too good to be true. I know this is my negative self-esteem coming out here, but why, when Sam could have anyone on Earth, would he want me?
A few minutes later of aimless wandering, I found myself at the edge of a creek bed that fed into a tiny pond. I wished I had my art supplies with me or even my camera. The pond would be the perfect place for a fairy-princess photo-shot. In my head, I struggled to imagine myself as the fairy princess, but Sam was definitely worthy of the title of the handsome prince.
I dangled my legs off the side of the little bridge that spanned the creek bed and splashed my toes in the cold water. I started to feel like myself again. All that I was missing was my older brother, Steven, and our trusty dog, Jake, and we’d be off having our adventures again.
A cool breeze rustled through the trees, reminding me that A. I was dumb enough to go hiking without a good jacket, again, and B. that it was getting late. I toed my shoes back on and turned to head back. When I looked around me, all I could see were trees. Miles and miles of trees. I gulped. Sam had asked me to stay in sight of the house. He was going to think I ran away again. Fudge Ripple!
I started hiking through the trees in what was hopefully the direction I had come in. As the light started to fade away, I cursed myself for my endurance. As much as I hated exercising, when I started hiking, I could wander for miles. I couldn’t see the house or even a sign of civilization. I was definitely lost.
An eerie howl echoed through the trees. I froze, remembering my last time in the woods. A pitch-black beast lumbered towards me. It looked like a cross between a wolf, a grizzly, and a Yeti. It licked its chops as it approached me, eyeing me as its dinner. Another howl sounded and a second wolf-like creature attacked the first, knocking it away from me. I watched through slates in my fingers as the two creatures fought. What had I gotten myself into? I could imagine my headstone now: Katie Morgan – Beloved Sister, Daughter, Aunt, and Maker of Poor Choices.
“Katie?” said a familiar voice. I peaked through my fingers as Sam nervously approached me. He was shirtless and… Was he naked? I clamped my fingers tightly over my eyes. “Katie, darling, are you alright?” I could feel his warm hands on my wrists. “Will you please look at me?”
“Are you decent?” I ask, my eyes still covered.
He chuckled. “Yes, darling. I am.”
I lowered my hand and looked at him. His face was flushed, and his torso was covered in perspiration. “Sam?” I wrapped my arms around his neck and held tight. He buried his face in the crook of my neck. “What’s going on? What was that thing?”
He sighed. “That was a rogue, love.”
“A what?” I sat back. “A rogue what?”
Sam sat back on his heals. This probably wasn’t how he imagined this conversation going. “A rogue werewolf, Katie.” He studied my face for a reaction. “I’m… All of my kind are werewolves.”
After Sam had carried me back to the house, which I later learned was really the pack house, he stayed by my side for the rest of the night. I am not sure if it was out of devotion to his alleged “mate” or if he was afraid, I’d try to run off again. After everything that had happened, option 2 was sounding more appealing.