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Chapter 3

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 you what I mean if you allow me to,' he says politely.

My breathing is heavy. I'm trying to stay calm and avoid feeling more upset than I already am. 

'Are you okay?' He sounds genuinely concerned about my welfare. 

'I don't want a wolf for my birthday, and I don't want to meet your pet wolf or any wolf!' I try to walk off, but the pain is too great.

'You've met a werewolf before?' He says, surprised. 

'A werewolf? What is wrong with you? There is no such thing as werewolves. I'm talking about wild wolves. When I was little, my mum and I saw a wolf in the woods. Something bad happened, and I've been afraid of wolves ever since. I can't even go near pet dogs, let alone wolves. So if you've got a pet wolf, I'm not interested.' I try to walk past him again, to no avail, as he steps in front of me again.

'What happened to the wolf?' He is curious. 

'You're not very good at minding your own business?' I scold. 

'Not when it involves my mate.' His reply is quick. 

'You just said I'm a rogue, and you wouldn't have a rogue as a mate. So why do you keep referring to me as your mate when you don't even want me?'

Ryker steps closer to me, and it's impossible not to make eye contact with him. 

'You're so beautiful and… stubborn. All I want to do is lift you in my arms and carry you home.' He is heartfelt and genuine. 'I want you to join my pack. You won't be a rogue anymore. We can be together.' His tone has dropped an octave again. If I hear any more sincerity from him, I will melt right into this footpath. He slowly reaches his hand out to take mine. 

I rescind away from him.

'No,' I say.

'No?' Ryker says, dumbfounded. 

'You're asking me to be your girlfriend when we only just met. Not only that, you were an absolute jerk to me earlier. So, you only want to be with me because you feel sorry for me. And you want me to join your cult? Pack? Or whatever you call it. And talk nonsense about werewolves and fairies?' I yell.

'That's not what I meant. And I never mentioned fairies. Come back to the diner with me, and I'll explain everything to you. Everything you need to know about us, how it all works and what to expect,' Ryker tries to persuade me.

'We're werewolves?' I ask him. He stands there and nods.

'So, you're telling me I'm cursed? I'm stuck with you as a mate, and we're werewolves?' Ryker flinches,

'You're not cursed, Astrid. It's a blessing from the Moon Goddess,' he explains. 

'You know what? I don't want to hear anymore. This is all too much. I am too tired and sore and don't even like you.' He stiffened at my words. I run as fast as I can toward the trees, hoping to lose him. 

'Wait!' He yells, giving chase.

I hide behind a tree, trying to catch my breath, and remain as quiet as possible. 

'Astrid. I know you're here. I can smell your scent a mile away,' he yells. 

I dig my fingers into the mud underneath me and apply it all over my face and clothes. Ryker isn't far away from me. I can imagine him inhaling the surrounding air, trying to catch my scent. But, of course, the darkness I'm sitting in makes it easier to conceal myself.

The chase is over after covering myself in mud. I know I am safe with Ryker, scentless and directionless. The diner is on the street that I pass. I'm an hour late, and I pray Dad is out drunk or asleep. I open the front door slowly and cringe at every creaking sound. No lights are on, hopefully, this means he is sleeping. I carefully pad upstairs and open my bedroom door. With my light on, I see Dad sitting on the end of my bed with a furious look on his face.

'Dad. I'm sorry. I can explain.' He is angry. 

'Not only did you come home late, but you've dragged mud through my house!' He yells. I try to shield myself with my arms from the blows to no avail. Within seconds, I fall unconscious.

Not an inch of my body does not ache. I've spent the whole day being as still as I can to let my body rest. My memory of last night when I arrived home is hazy. I know my dad beat me, but I can't remember it. By evening, I find enough strength to run a small bath and wash the mud from my skin. Completely covered in bruises, my body is proof of the worst abuse it has ever sustained. I hug my knees and cry over the confrontation with Ryker last night and the beating I got when I came home. Dad will kill me if he finds out about Ryker or about me not having a job. I wash the dishes and make some meals in the kitchen as best I can in my condition. I place them in the fridge. Dad should find them quickly enough. Sometimes I think I won't survive the subsequent beating, but somehow, I always do. I return to my room and fall asleep within minutes.

The next day, I'm still in pain but have improved a little. I get dressed, brush my long brown hair, and apply some makeup to hide the bruising on my face. Dad expects me to be at work, but I can't go back there, not after what happened the other night. I decide to go into town, a forty-five-minute walk from home, to apply for a new job. Close to the diner, I notice the black Mercedes behind me. I'm not in the mood for this. I am going to confront the person in the car. They know I'm waiting for them.

The car stops beside me, and a rear window descends. A man with dark hair and dark eyes smiles kindly. He has a weird scar near his ear, half his ear is missing. I can't see the driver, but the two guys in the back look around twenty years old.

'Why are you following me?' I ask. 

'Pardon my rudeness, young lady. My name is Zenith. Every day I go to work this way. You are alone on the road. I'm just concerned someone might take advantage of you. I want to keep an eye out for you and make sure you're safe,' he explains.

'Right. The only thing that worries me out here is this car with you and the creepy people in it,' I say. 

'You're an unappreciative one, now, aren't you?' He says sternly. 

'Look, Zenith, if you don't mind. I've had a terrible week. I need to get into town, so I'd appreciate it if you would stop following me and just let me be.'

'What happened to your job at the diner?' Zenith asks. 

'How do you know I worked there?'  

'I've seen you in there when I drive past to work.' 

'Right.' I turn to walk away.

'Wait, take this.' He hands me his business card. 

I take it reading it, Zenith Creations CEO, accompanied by a contact number. I look at Zenith, confused. 

'If you need a job, call me,' he says.

'Thanks, but I'm sure I'll be fine,' I say, handing the card back. 

'No, keep it. Just in case. I'll see you around, Astrid.' He gives me a wink before his window ascends, shielding him from view. 

'Hey!' I yell as he drives off. 'How did you know my… name?'

I stand there watching the car drive further and further away. The diner is up ahead. I don't want to walk past it, but there is no other road to take. The woods are the only other thing around. There are more cars at the diner than there usually would be.

Comments (1)
goodnovel comment avatar
Phoenix
Zenith you better not be that rouge the pack talks about. And stay away from her
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