Quietly preparing the platter, I hear a loud thump. Someone is angry. I'm just glad I'm in here and not out there with all that commotion. I pull my hood up to hide my bruised eye. Unfortunately, I can't cover my split lip, so I figure I'll bite over my lip to hide it when needed.
After approaching the counter, I ask the first man for his order. I avoid eye contact and keep my head down as I write them down. All these guys sound very grumpy and annoyed. Then, finally, Jim comes over to me.
'Alpha, I mean Ryker, would like a vanilla milkshake with some cookies.' I nod and write the order. I have served everyone except for Ryker.
Lifting an enormous platter of biscuits and dips, I wince with the weight in one hand. My broken rib is under strain. Ryker stares at me.
Pausing for a moment, I inhale a deep breath and hold it, brace myself for the pain, lift the platter again, and put it on the table where most men sit. In the kitchen, I exhale while keeping my hand pressed against my ribs. Darn! Ryker's order. Quickly walking to him to serve his order, he stares directly at me and squints, wondering what or who is under my hood.
All the other men are shouting over each other about some guy named Zenith, a town called Shady Crest, and something about rogues, which is strange because Jim referred to me as a rogue earlier. A map sprawls across the table in front of Ryker. The men are drawing circles and squiggly lines on various parts of it and talking about setting up posts here and there.
As the diner becomes quiet and all eyes are on me, I suddenly feel nervous. I can sense them on me. I nervously place Ryker’s order on the table next to the map.
'Your order, sir,' I whisper.
'Wait,' Ryker says before I can leave his table. 'What is wrong with your ribs?' Ryker asks.
'Nothing, sir,' I reply, wondering how he knew I was in pain.
'You struggled to hold the platter, it's causing you pain,' he observes.
'I want you to remove your hood, rogue!' He demands. I freeze and look at Jim for help.
'Astrid, have your break, love. Ryker, I told you to leave her out of all this.' I run to the kitchen and out the back door.
'She should smell like a rogue if she is a rogue. But she smells sweet and sugary,' Alpha Ryker declares.
'You need to leave her alone,' Jim says. Alpha Ryker lets out a growl and glares at Jim.
'I could smell her before she served me. My wolf is extremely restless right now. I'm struggling to keep him back,' Ryker explains, holding his chest.
Everyone in the diner freezes and looks at each other, then at Alpha Ryker.
'What?' Alpha Ryker asks. His Beta, Seth, stands up.
'Alpha, you don't seriously think she could be your mate?' Seth asks. Alpha Ryker laughs.
'The Moon Goddess matching an Alpha and a rogue? Don't be ridiculous,' Alpha Ryker says.
My breathing finally slows down. My watch reads 8:45 pm. In fifteen minutes, I can go home. Hopefully, Dad will be asleep from drinking too much. I go back inside and wash up all the cups, mugs, and plates. The men leave the diner, and I breathe relief as I hear all of their car doors slamming. My body relaxes, knowing they have gone. Thinking Jim was behind me, I was just about to tell him I was leaving as well, but it wasn't Jim standing behind me. It's Ryker.
I avoid making eye contact with him. I'm aware my hood could fall at any moment, revealing the abuse I suffer. His breathing is very noticeable.
'I'm sorry, sir. My shift is over. Please see Jim,' I say if you need anything else. His arm suddenly barricades the space between me and my exit as he presses his palm against the wall. I jump back in fright.
'Remove your hood,' he demands. I shake my head.
'No. Jim! Jim!' I yell as I try to move backward. Instead, I'm pressed against the wall with nowhere else to go without warning and trapped between his body and the brickwork in one swift movement. He leans over me before planting both of his hands on either side of the wall.
'Jim is busy saying goodbye to his pack members out front. He thinks I've already left,' Ryker whispers, twirling my long brown hair in his fingers. He inhales my scent.
'You smell so good, even my wolf is struggling to stay calm,' he confesses.
'You, you, have a pet wolf?' I'm scared. Ryker laughs at my question.
'Are you frightened of me, Astrid?' He asks. I nod.
'Well, if you are what my senses tell me you are and a rogue, you should be afraid. I don't know if I could have a rogue as my mate, and my pack might not want one as their Luna,' he explains.
'I'm sorry, sir. I'm confused. I'm not sure what you mean. Rogues, Lunas and Mates. I promise I won't be a problem to you if you just let me go home. We will never see each other again,' I whimper.
'In a moment, Astrid,' he whispers, looking down at my face, hair, and figure, clumsily clothed in my work uniform.
'Please. I want to go home. Please let me go.' I beg.
'I will let you go if you are not my mate,' he says.
'I don't know what a mate is. It would help if you stopped being an arrogant, obnoxious human being. Please, just let me go,' I plead.
Unleashing an angry growl, he punches the wall above my head. I drop to the ground in fright.
'Do not insult me like that again. Ryker scolds, 'How dare you refer to me as a human being?' Hugging my knees, I tremble.
'Please, just let me go home….'
He takes a step back and pauses, staring at me. He is in deep reflection. Curiosity and a pensive expression consume his handsome face.
'Alpha Ryker! What is the meaning of this? Astrid, are you okay? Why is there a hole in my wall?' Jim shouts before helping me up off the ground. The pressure of his hand on my broken rib makes me shriek in pain.
'Astrid, you're hurt. Your ribs. Please tell me you are, okay?' Jim says, worried.
Ryker's face softens as his concern for me replaces any anger he previously felt toward me. He takes a step closer to me, sharply inhaling the surrounding air. I move behind Jim for protection. Ryker looks away, distancing myself away from him has offended him somewhat. His fists are clenched by his side as though he contains something within himself he cannot control.
'Ryker! What did you do to her? She's just a young, innocent girl! Did you break her ribs?' Jim shouts.
'I didn't touch her, Jim. She called me an arrogant, obnoxious human being. I got angry and punched the wall,' Ryker explains.
'Well, she got most of that right,' Jim yells, 'because you are being an arrogant, obnoxious--' Ryker stops him.
'Jim. Point taken! I overstepped the mark, but she acts like she doesn't know what a mate is. She's pretending she doesn't know she is a rogue!'
'That's because she doesn't know!' Jim yells. Ryker gives Jim a confused look, then looks at me. I'm just as bewildered.
'Look. I don't know what game this is, but I don't want to do this anymore. Just let me go home, and neither of you will have to worry about seeing me again,' I yell.
'Astrid. I'm so sorry about Ryker. Please. You don't have to leave your job here at the diner. You know you're safer here than at home,' Jim explains.
'What do you mean by that?' Ryker asks.
'Mind your own business,' I snap. Ryker backs away with a scowl. He crosses his arms and tries to hide the hurt look on his face.
'I was safer here, Jim, but Ryker has an agenda against me. I don't know what his problem is. Thank you for being kind to me and employing me all this time, but I can't work here anymore.' I give him a kiss on the cheek goodbye. His eyes are teary. Ryker lets out a growl. I go over to the stool where my handbag is and swing it on my shoulder.
'You! I feel sorry for whoever you seek and refer to as your mate! To be with you would be a curse!' I shout. My words deeply hurt him. He couldn't even look at me.
Before I can storm off and leave, Ryker swiftly takes my wrist. He flings my hood off my head rashly, and with the sharp eye contact we make, He feels a magnetic rush of endorphins and dopamine sweep through him. My stomach lurches at the instant feeling of butterflies. Everything around Ryker vanishes. he and I are the only people that exist.
I'm so confused. I don't know what is happening right now. A subtle, strange feeling flows through my body. Ryker is now staring at me as if he lusts after me, even though he was so intimidating only minutes ago. I'm mesmerised by his eyes. This feels almost like I'm in a trance. Ryker continues staring into my green eyes intently before his eyes briefly change in colour.
'You're my mate,' he whispers, stepping closer to me. I unwillingly snap out of the magnetic, lustful trance.
'Stop. Don't you dare touch me,' I yell. Jim stands there with a shocked look on his face.
'Alpha, are you sure Astrid is your mate?' Jim asks in disbelief.
'She's a rogue. This did not just happen?' Ryker mumbles to himself, brushing his hand through his hair, stressed.
'You're right. Whatever you think is happening is not going to happen. We can agree on that,' I say. Ryker stares at me.
'Who did that to your face?' He asks calmly.
'Mind your own business and stay away from me,' I say, skirring the kitchen through the diner and running out the door.
Chasing after me, I hear Ryker's footsteps crunching on the gravel. I run faster, but he matches my pace effortlessly. Eventually, when I am out of breath and my broken ribs cannot take any more, I am left with no choice but to stop and face him. 'Why are you following me?' I demand to know. 'You're my mate, whether or not we like it. I have to follow you. It's my business to know who did that to your face,' he says, firmly but calmly.'You didn't care about me when you slammed your fist into the wall above my head!' I yell. 'Astrid, please, I'm sorry. I would never have done that had I known you were telling the truth about not knowing you're not human. I would have been more civil.' He looks at the ground guiltily.'You have lost it now! Not being human? What is that supposed to mean?' 'How old are you?' His tone has changed again.'I'll be eighteen in two weeks.' I try to avoid his eyes. 'You won't meet your wolf till then. I've had my wolf for four years. But I want to show
A few of the same men I served the other night are standing outside the diner. They're staring intently at me. One man nods, and another enters the diner. I quicken my pace, knowing Ryker might be with them. I am left unbothered for a while, and I think this will be a non-event before Ryker is suddenly standing in front of me. You've got to be kidding me. How did he get here so quick? I step around him. 'Astrid,' he says. I keep walking, and Ryker keeps pace with me. 'Astrid.' he repeats himself. I keep my head down and keep walking. He grabs my wrist, and I feel a subtle sensation from his touch.'Ryker! Let me go!' I yell. 'No. I looked for you all night when you ran off and all day yesterday and today. So, we are going to the diner to talk,' he says. 'There is nothing to talk about!' I say, trying to pull away.Ryker grabs me by the waist and lifts me over his shoulder. I cry out in pain from the injuries I sustained. Ryker quickly puts me back down. 'What's wrong?' He asks. '
I look up to see Ryker staring down into my eyes with sadness. 'There's more I need to explain to you, but it can wait till tomorrow,' he whispers. I nod and look at the clock. It's late! My father will kill me. I should have been home ages ago!Pushing myself out of Ryker's arms, I bolt for the door to leave, impatiently turning the handle clockwise and counter-clockwise to no avail. 'Where's the key?' I ask. 'Astrid! You're not going anywhere yet, and you sure as hell aren't going back to that house!' Ryker argues.'Ryker, you said you would unlock the door when I'm ready to leave! Please, you have to let me go. He will kill me if I'm late home,' I explain, trying to force the door open. 'Astrid, I won't let him lay a finger on you again. Do you hear me?' Ryker says sternly.'He will hunt me down, Ryker. If I don't go home, he will kill me. He will look for me here,' I argue. 'Good. Let your Dad come. Because it's the last time he will ever see you,' Ryker says.'What are you g
As we run back to the diner, I fear what is about to unfold, holding hands. My Dad is sitting on the bonnet of his car with his shotgun pointed at some of the pack members outside. He watches me step out from the concealment of the woods, holding Ryker's hand. 'How many men are here waiting to have their turn with you, Astrid? Fourteen? Fifteen?' He spits. Ryker lets out a growl. 'Astrid, you need to train your pet dog to behave. Otherwise, I'll have to put him down, like the dangerous dog he is for touching my daughter.' A warning shot fires toward Ryker's feet, purposely missing them but warning him. I jump at the gunshot. Ryker doesn't flinch. Instead, he maintains a steady resolve and holds my hand tighter. He glares at my father.'The only one around here who needs to keep their hands off Astrid is you! I'm going to rip you to pieces,' Ryker yells, letting go of my hand and tackling my father to the ground. I try to grab his arms, but I'm useless. The scuffling is too unpredict
It's around 1 am when we arrive at Shadow Crest. I wake up to Ryker carrying me in his arms. It's dark and quiet. 'Ryker, I can walk, you know?' 'I know, but I want to carry you,' he says with a grin. 'Put me down, Ryker.' He gently puts me down.We are at the mansion's front entrance. It's three stories high. A giant white staircase ascends to the second floor. The balconies on the second and third floors are to die for, and I admire the white French doors and windows. Manicured green hedges border the mansion, and flowers grace the garden sweetly. A giant water fountain sculpted in the shape of two wolves is a glamourous outdoor focal point.'This is where we live. This is the packhouse,' Ryker says proudly. 'It's a massive house for just two people,' I say.'Oh, many of us live in this house.' Ryker scratches the back of his head nervously. 'You never said I'd be living in a house with a bunch of werewolves,' I say.'It's normal for the Alpha and Luna to live in the packhouse
It's a beautiful town with lush trees and plenty of parks. I see a shopping strip and some cute cafes and clothing stores. There are plenty of people around who are most likely werewolves. I feel many unwelcome eyes on me. I perk up when I spot the watchtower and go there.After climbing hundreds of steps, I take in the view Shadow Crest sure is beautiful. A dense, green forest surrounds the town for miles, and I'm unsure which way to go. Finally, I sit down, defeated, and dangle my legs over the ledge, resting my head on the rail. What am I going to do? Turning into a werewolf scares me, but I can't run from that. It's going to happen no matter where I go. I reflect on last night: My dad shot Ryker, and he protected me from my father, and how my heart ached at almost losing him.Suddenly, I feel a presence behind me. Ryker lets out a heavy sigh and sits down next to me, dangling his legs over the ledge. 'Ryker, I'm sorry I ran off. I panicked and didn't know what to do.' I explain.
We decide to watch some movies downstairs. 'Can we make some popcorn first?' I ask. 'Sure, I'll make it while you pick a movie.' I flick through the list. There are so many to choose from that I can't decide. I close my eyes and press play on a random movie. Ryker sits close beside me, holding a large bowl of salty, buttery popcorn.'What are we watching?' He asks. 'I'm not sure. I couldn't decide, so I closed my eyes and picked a random movie.' 'That's cute,' he smiles. I giggle. Then, the movie starts, turning out to be a scary horror film. I have my face in Ryker's shoulder halfway through it, too frightened to watch the spooky parts anymore.'You can hold my hand if you're scared,' he says. I laugh. 'You wish!' I laugh. 'I wish,' he says, grinning. I smile back at his confidence and jump in fright when the monster appears on the screen, out of nowhere, capturing and killing the human who tried to get away.'Aww, baby. Did the monster scare you?' Ryker asks as he swings my le
The following day, there is a knock on my locked door. I ignore it. 'Astrid, I know you're there. Please unlock the door,' Ryker pleads. I don't want to hear his voice, so I lock myself in the bathroom, run a bath, and stay there for as long as possible.I put on a pair of jeans and the most oversized hoodie I can find. It almost touches my knees. I pull the hood over my head. It makes me feel invisible like I'm able to hide from the world. It's an enormous sense of comfort. On the twelfth knock on my door, Ryker is livid and enlists Mia's help. 'It's Mia, Astrid,' she says through the door. As sweet and bubbly as she is, I still want to be left alone.'I brought you some lunch. I'll leave it at the door,' she explains. The last thing I want to do is eat food. I feel sick to the stomach thinking about how close I have become with Ryker. He wants me, but I don't understand why. I get that I'm his mate, but he had already arranged to be mates with Vanessa. Have I ever meant anythi