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Chapter 4

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. 

'Nothing, just please don't touch me,' I say. Ryker pushes my hoodie down. 

'Astrid. I need you to look at me, please,' he pleads. He can see bruises on my neck.

I look into his blue eyes, tears rolling down my cheeks. I feel so ashamed of myself. 

'Oh, Astrid...' he says, as he tries to wipe my tears from my cheek. I flinch and take a step back. I'm not used to his kindness at all.

'Astrid, I didn't mean to hurt you,' he says. 

'I know,' I say, looking away. 

'Can you please walk with me to the diner and let us talk?' 

Not knowing what else to do, I nod, and we walk toward the diner.

I don't have a chance to open the door at the diner before one of Ryker's men opens it for us.

'Alpha,' he says, nodding. Ryker walks in while I come to a halt and hesitate.

'You worked here for almost a year, and now you're afraid to come in?' Ryker says. 

'I'd prefer Jim didn't see me like this,' I explain. Ryker stares at me for a moment. 

'I'll tell him to stay in the kitchen,' he suggests. I hug my arms, nod, and keep my head down.

I hear a commotion of pots and pans falling a few moments later, and Jim yelling, 'Let me see her, damn it.' Ryker is trying to hold Jim back. He is furious and distraught that my dad has hurt me again, and this time worse. I know Jim will not calm down anytime soon. I take a deep breath and go in.

'Jim, I don't want you to see me like this. I've caused quite the commotion. I am so sorry,' I say, standing at the kitchen bench and looking at the mess of pots and pans on the floor. Jim stiffens at the sight of me. I'm glad my hoodie and jeans cover the extent of my beatings.

'Astrid...' Jim says, staring at me. Then, his eyes well up, he steps toward me, and I rescind. He frowns and looks away. 

'I'll get you some ice,' he whispers, walking to the freezer. The other men in the diner are all staring at me, sympathising with my injuries.

I make it obvious I'm uncomfortable by glaring at them, they all look away. 

'Astrid, take a seat,' Ryker says, walking to the diner door, flipping the OPEN sign, and locking the door with the key. I am worried. 

'It's fine, Astrid. We don't want to be interrupted. I'll unlock the door when you're ready to leave,' he reassures me. I nod and sit at the table with the booth seats. Ryker sits beside me. Without looking at me, Jim passes me the ice pack and returns to the kitchen. 

'Astrid, we need to discuss your living arrangements,' he says. 

'There's nothing to discuss,' I reply.

'Astrid, do you want him to kill you? Because looking at you in your current state, another beating before your eighteenth birthday, and you probably won't survive,' he observes. 

'Why would I not be able to survive another beating?' I ask. All the men in the room are listening to our conversation intently.

'She doesn't know about us or believe me. Yet,' Ryker says. The men speak with knowing looks, unspoken words pass between them via their body language. I'm not privy to their thoughts. 

Jim has made me a flat white coffee and some sandwiches. I'm so hungry. I eat slowly and carefully. The pain in my jaw makes it almost impossible, hence why I haven't eaten in days.

'Astrid, I'm going to explain everything to you, and I know you won't believe me yet, but you need to know now, so you know what to expect on your birthday. No matter what I say, try to stay calm. It's a lot to take in. The world you know is about to change,' Ryker says carefully, forming his words.

Too sore and too tired to argue, I keep sipping my coffee and listening. 

'I live in what is called a pack. Every pack has an Alpha and a Luna, the pack's leaders. You are known as a rogue if you're not in a pack.' I raise my brow and tilt my head. 

'So, because I'm not in a pack, I'm a rogue?' I ask.

'Yes, that's correct. But being a rogue isn't a good thing. It makes you weaker. And you can't just go anywhere: you need permission to go into a pack's territory. Otherwise, they can punish you by instant death by a pack member in that territory,' he explains.

'That's not very nice to kill someone for passing through,' I say. 

'Well, rogues are a threat and don't normally have good intentions for entering other territories. That's why,' he explains. 

'Okay.'

'When you turn eighteen, something extraordinary happens to us. Our inner wolf wakes. You will hear your wolf in your mind. You'll also be able to heal quickly, and you will be able to shift into your wolf for the first time that night.' I laugh and see everyone looking very serious, they're all serious about this. This is no lie.

My attention turns to Jim. He places his hand over mine and gently squeezes it. 

'Astrid, I know this sounds like some kind of fairy tale to you, but Alpha Ryker is telling you the truth, and you know I would never lie to you,' Jim says in a serious tone.

Pulling my hand away, I stand up. Ryker and Jim stand, too. I look around the diner again at all the men with serious expressions. 

'I don't believe you. Either of you,' I say. 

'Jim, would you like to do the honours and show her?' Ryker asks. Jim nods and starts undressing. I'm disturbed that Jim is stripping his clothes off right in front of me. I close my eyes and turn away. 

'Jim! What are you doing?' I ask him. I hear sounds of muscles tearing and bones breaking, they're awful sounds. I've enlivened again with the chemistry between Ryker and me when he gently pulls my hands down from my face, forcing me to watch. After no time, Jim's face and body are no longer his and covered in fur. He has morphed into a large brown wolf. I hyperventilate and go into shock from what I have witnessed.

The wolf howls and walks toward me. My ongoing screams force it to stop in its tracks.  

'Wolf! Wolf! Wolf!' I cry and throw random objects at Jim. Anything I can get my hands on the napkin holder, the salt, the pepper, the sugar, my empty mug, the jar of teaspoons from the table. I try to maintain a safe distance from him, but no space is safe when you're trapped in a diner with a wolf.

'It's okay, Astrid. Take some deep breaths. I know this is a shock for you, but you need to breathe. It's just Jim, he will not hurt you.

I sink to the ground in the corner and hold my knees as I tremble in fear. 

'Ryker, please don't let it near me,' I say. The giant wolf whimpers and backs away into the kitchen, out of my sight. Ryker sits on the ground next to me.

'I told you I never wanted to see a wolf again! Why did you do that? Why do you want me to relive my mother's death?' I yell, slamming my hands repeatedly into his chest before letting myself slump forward. He wraps his muscular arms around me and holds me tightly. I'm instantly comforted by him and feel much calmer. His scent and his closeness console me. I suddenly feel very safe.

'I'm so sorry. I didn't know your mum died the day you saw the wolf. Please forgive me?' he whispers into my hair as he runs his fingers through it. 

I'm furious with him, but I desire him. His arms around me make me feel the comfort I thought I'd never feel. I never want to leave his arms. It takes me a while, sitting in silence, to digest Jim shifting into a wolf and recover from my mum's death flashbacks.

Jim reappears in the dining room in his clothes, looking at me with a sad expression. I'm too scared to make eye contact with him or even look at him, he keeps his distance. A whole hour passes, with the memory of my mother's death repeatedly replaying in my mind. Scenes from that day resound in my head, and poor Ryker does not know what I'm reliving as he holds me close. No one dares make a sound or move. The only noises I hear are the birds chirping outside and a few random, intermittent knocks on the diner's glass door because the diner is closed. Finally, I fall asleep in Ryker's arms.

Comments (4)
goodnovel comment avatar
Janine Andrews
Its a pity the writer has very little knowledge of english! Rescind ???
goodnovel comment avatar
CKDC
Decent story line but I feel like when someone tries to hurry and tell a story and leaves out all the good parts. We need to have more detail, feelings, and tone. Set the stage and don’t rush the story.
goodnovel comment avatar
Tonya Horinek
So a wolf killed her mom?? Maybe Zenith, but why would he watch her and not harm her? Maybe he's a family member???
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