It’s been two days since Ryan had called me stupid and if I was honest with myself, I don’t think he said it on purpose. He probably didn’t even know the impact his words would have on me which made my reaction even more embarrassing. When I felt the burn behind my eyes, I grew even angrier with my own weakness. I was a Feral Born for Moon’s sake! Words were a ridiculous thing to allow myself to become emotional about. Tearing up like a pup. The disgrace.
But nevertheless, I’d been avoiding Ryan so I wouldn’t have to go through the uncomfortableness of explaining my reaction. I was doing a good job of it too, staying around my cabin, going on that run I wanted to, and clearing the path from the pack house to my cabin. Until Candice came by with an apologetic smile to tell me I was to take the teens into town today with Ryan because she’d been rescheduled for patrol.
So now, I was currently making my way to the front of the pack house. Trying my best to avoid any of my fellow pack mates in case they wanted to talk for some reason. Reaching the house unhindered, I decided to cut straight through instead of going around to the front. I had just stepped through the threshold of the kitchen when the faint whisper of my name teased my ears. Curious, I followed the direction it had come from through the kitchen and to the stairs.
Cocking my head, I listened at the bottom to see if my name was mentioned again. Sure enough the person repeated my name and since it was mine they were saying, I started up the stairs. As I went the voice had become clearer in it’s tone, the speaker was Ryan.
“So, Kai. I feel, no not feel Ryan. Formed, you’ve formed. Come on, get it together you can do this.”
At the words I instantly wanted to go back down the stairs but if it’s what I thought it was, the earlier I dealt with it the better. Walking with soft steps, well as softly as I could in my combat boots, I headed left down the hall to Ryan’s room. Passing the two empty rooms reserved for visiting alphas, I stopped at his door.
“-I have for a year now, but I’ve just realized that I don’t know you that well and that’s a problem. How can I be so sure about my feelings if we don’t know each others...well everything! I at least know it’s not infatuation or obsession, I passed that stage a long time ago. There’s just something about you that makes my heart -
Apprehension took hold of me and I paused my hand inches away from knocking on the hard wood of his door. That didn’t sound like the speech men gave me when their wolf formed a bond. This sounded very different...almost like it wasn’t a wolf bond at all. But a...human one.
A feeling speared through my body, one that I hadn’t felt in a long time. It was like a flood of ice had hit my heart and stole my breath in the process. Fear. Fear of his strange words and the change that came with them.
If only Ryan learned to keep his mouth shut, then the urge to avoid him wouldn’t have just tripled. If I was quick enough I could make it look like I’d been on the bus the whole time. Unless the gremlins tore it apart while they waited for us to get there. It had only been around fifteen minutes or so but they always found a way to get into trouble. Theo should be on the bus though so maybe he kept his fellow gremlins in line.
Racing down the stairs, the swing of my short hair irritated me in my slightly panicked state. Every glide of it against my neck caused a brushing sound followed by a small whoosh of air. The downside to having intense hearing was that it was never truly quiet, even when you were alone. Opening the side pocket of my tan cargo pants and grabbing the hair tie I had stashed in there earlier. I bent at the waist to flip my hair over my head before pulling it up into a tight ponytail.
Passing a hand quickly over the top to feel for bumps, I was satisfied to find none and continued down the stairs. A click of a lock and footsteps in the hall behind me caused a spike in my pulse. Picking up the pace, I walked out the front door to the bus parked just a few feet from the porch. Snarls and laughter came rolling out of the half open windows to assault the air. The noise level was deafening right up until I entered the bus.
As soon as they noticed me standing beside the driver’s seat, all of them immediately quieted. My lips quirked at their reaction, gremlins were very entertaining sometimes. When all I did was stare, the teenagers began to murmur again at a much lower volume than they had before. Doing a headcount I saw we had about fifteen with us on this trip, all clumped together in their little groups. Theo was sitting towards the back with a group of boys he always hung around when he caught my gaze and winked.
A low growl from behind me had Theo quickly looking back towards his friends. Turning my head, I found Ryan who shifted his glare from Theo to me and then cleared his throat.
“So I’ll drive then?” He asked, innocently.
I nodded and looked for a seat, “Yes. I hate driving.”
“Oh? And, uh, why’s that?” He said, sliding into the driver’s seat and closing the bus doors.
All the seats towards the back were taken and pairs littered the middle section. But right behind the driver’s seat on the left by the doors, there sat a boy or a girl with their blue hoodie pulled up and over their head. Something about the way they sat, all scrunched up next to the window, called to my protectors instinct.
Moving to sit beside them, I answered Ryan, “I don’t like having my attention split between the gremlins and the road.”
“Ahhh. Thanks for telling me.” He said, voice giddy like he’d just uncovered something telling. “Hey, were you outside my room just a few moments ago?”
“Coulda sworn I smelled your scent...”
Ignoring him, I sat down next to the lone person. They twitched a little in their spot but kept themselves facing the window. With a loud rumble and a jolt the engine came to life before we started down the road at a smoother pace. I’d have to talk to Otis about getting a new bus, this one was getting too old for these trips.
Settling into the seat, I prepared to sit in silence for the next twenty minutes and eavesdrop on the teens behind me. The eavesdropping part wasn’t really planned but with impossible not to, in such close proximity. Knowing how far they went with so and so or who liked who, wasn’t really what I cared to hear. Thankfully, at the moment they were only talking about what they wanted to buy or try in the human town.
I was moving away from the spring digging into my spine, when the figure next to me turned and snapped, “Could you stop fucking moving?”
His eyes went wide when they registered who he had just snapped at. Raising a brow at what I could now tell was a boy, I looked him over. He was pale skinned with sharp features, a hard lined mouth and dark brown eyes. With a cruel persona that warned people off and an aura to match. One I knew well and had seen change over time, it was Devin Colrich. I’d caught him by the border rolling his motorcycle to the road trying to sneak out more than a few times.
His eyes lowered to my shoulder, “Sorry, Omicron. I didn’t realize it was you.” His voice was a little deeper than I remembered.
Now that he moved, I was hit by the scent of cigarettes, “Smoking now?”
“And where’s your motorcycle?” He normally went to town without anyone knowing on that damn bike. It would drive me up the walls because then I’d have to go down there and make sure no renegades caught him in the neutral territory.
Devin scoffed, “You’ll be happy to know my parents took it.”
“I am. Why aren’t you sitting with your friends?”
“I’m not friends with those assholes anymore.” He replied, uncaringly but his face was carefully blank.
“What happened?” That didn’t sound like them. Devin was a wolf capable of alpha status when he was older, it wasn’t natural for others not to be hanging around him.
“None of your business.”
“If it hurts you, it is.” It wasn’t my job to offer him comfort but I did try to protect my fellow pack members in any way I could.
“It doesn’t.” He snarled, eyes sharp.
I flashed a fang and snarled back. I didn’t mind Devin but I wouldn’t allow disrespect.
“Sorry. I...I just don’t want to say anything here.” He muttered, sinking further down into his seat.
The vulnerability in his voice made me tense, “I’m not good with this. Do you want to hear about my mission?”
Devin gave a small laugh, “Yea, how many renegades did you kill?”
For the rest of the ride, Devin and I talked about how my mission went. Mostly on the gory parts that caused us to lapse into a comfortable conversation for the both of us. Throughout the conversation though, I felt bothered about how he said he wasn’t friends with his friends anymore. It sounded like something had happened between them, something that caused him to hurt...inside.
As the bus creeked to a loud stop in the local grocery store’s parking lot, the gremlins’ conversation grew to an obnoxiously loud volume. Ryan turned the engine off and then stood to address them, “Alright everyone, you know the drill. Stay in pairs, don’t wander off and if you see, hear or smell anything suspicious tell Kai or me. We’ll be moving on to the next store in an hour and a half, so make it snappy. Understood?”
At the silence, he repeated himself loudly, “I said, understood?"
A chorus of ‘Yes, Beta Ryan’s’ filled the bus before one by one they started getting off. When Devin went to move I put a booted foot up on the plastic, stopping him in his seat. Theo was among the last of the group to get off and he gave us a confused look as he passed. Though the look was a short lived one as he quickly turned away.
Ryan stared at me hesitantly from where he stood near the door, “Kai?”
“Me and Devin need to speak.” When he continued to wait patiently, I added, “Alone.”
“Fine but find me after, okay? I need to talk to you too. Alone.” He said, after a moment of staring at us.
Now, I was the one hesitating. “...Sure.”
He looked between Devin and me once more before following the gremlins off the bus and into the store.
“When the hell did he grow a pair?” Devin laughed.
“A pair of what? Nevermind. Why are you friendless?”
“Very sensitive of you, Kai.” He snarked.
My eyes narrowed at his tone, “I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s wrong.”
“What if I don’t want your help?”
“Then I won’t force it on you but Candice once told me it feels better to talk to someone about your problems.” I personally didn’t understand why but maybe he would.
He swallowed hard, “But what if I tell you and you don’t want to talk to me either?”
I furrowed my brow, “Did you betray the pack?”
“Did you hurt anyone in the pack?”
“Did you put yourself or others at risk?”
“Then why would I not speak to you? Stop being emotional and just tell me.”
He released a slow breath before saying, “They stopped talking to me after they found out that... that I don’t know how to channel my inner alpha.”
I blinked, “What?”
“Yea and if you don’t like it, you can fuck off like the rest of them. I could care less what you think.” He hissed out, but the high set of his shoulders contradicted his words.
“Why would they do that?”
“They said that they’re future ranking wolves and that they couldn’t be friends with a pretender alpha. That I’d cause them to be rankless in the pack if anyone found out they were friends with a future rank mater.” His voice was thick with bitterness. But I guess to a nineteen year old being called a shifter who mated for rank would seem like a devastating insult.
Except, I was confused, “Are they not friends with Lisa Sukton?”
He snorted, “You mean Lisa Sucka-ton? Yea. That’s different, Kai.”
“I don’t understand. So the only reason they don’t want to be your friend is because you haven’t found your alpha essence yet?”
“Your right. You don’t need them.....they are weak and unworthy of an Alpha’s friendship. I will be your friend.”
“You don’t have friends.” He muttered, turning his head to look out the window.
I tilted my own head, he had a point. But up until an hour ago, I didn’t think I’d be afraid to have a conversation with someone. “No, I don’t. But you can be my first.” Who knows, maybe I’d like having a friend...
He turned to me and laughed, “You want to be friends with a nineteen year old?”
“Why not? Are there age restrictions? I’m only four years older than you.”
He shook his head and laughed again while standing up, “I wonder how Ryan’s going to feel about this.”
I stood up with him and asked defensively, “Why would his feelings matter?” Devin couldn’t possibly know about Ryan’s human bond to me. I had barely just found out myself so it was impossible, they weren’t well acquainted.
Devin ignored me as he passed to exit the bus.
Shrugging I followed him out, I don’t think I’ll ever truly understand the minds of regular shifters. While walking through the snow blanketed parking lot, wind blew from the east causing flakes to dance across the cement. It was a pretty sight until the smell of blood and wet dirt assaulted my nostrils.
Lip curling, I turned to face the treeline at the edge of the parking lot with a vicious snarl rattling deeply in my chest.
“What! Where?” Devin exclaimed, squinting at the tree line.
Reaching out with one arm, I grabbed the neck of his blue hoodie and yanked him behind me. “Link Ryan and tell him to get the teens back to the bus.”
“But it’s neutral territory they can-”
“Now.” I snarled lowly.
While Devin had wasted time with useless questions, the renegades in the treeline moved closer. One man and two women stood there dressed in army fatigues creating shadows under the trees. And even though Devin was right, these renegades could be here peacefully. Their bared fangs and glares made it obvious they were here for anything but peace.
“Alright, I told him. They’re on their way.”
Good. The renegades were getting too close to the treeline for comfort,“Get on the bus.”
He walked around to stand beside me, “No, we can take these-”
Narrowing my eyes, I tracked the movements of the male renegade who stepped out from the woods to stare me down. Keeping my gaze locked on his, I lowered my head and snapped my fangs together with a loud clack. A direct challenge. The edges of my lips curved upwards when I realized I wouldn’t have to hold back with them. The male mimicked my motions and added a snarl of acceptance. Sending a shiver of excitement racing up my spine at the thought of sinking my fangs into his throat.
“-Onnn second thought, your smile is psychotic. You got this.”
Shit is heating up y’all!
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