I walk into the gym. Luckily I've searched all around campus for Walid and when I find him it's the exact place that I think he's going to be. He's in the gym.
“You fucking liar!”
My heart races. Tears are in my eyes. I can't believe Walid. I hate him right now. I'm so angry at him. Walid seems a little embarrassed. It's late in the day and he's lifting weights. He is is dripping sweat and completely shirtless. When I walk in the gym I notice Walid doing the flat bench press. His muscles are flexing as he is pushing up what honestly looks like 700 pounds.
Fang is in the room with Walid and is using the free weights. He isn't even bothering to spot Walid as Walid lifts all that weight. He's just sitting there.
The only other person in the gym is some guy on the treadmill who has his earphones in. Still, I'm relatively loud and I don't care. Walid drops the barbell on the floor with a heavy thud.
“What?” he asks.
“Your dog needs a leash,” Fang replies.
Fang looks irrirated and defensive. Walid seems just as annoyed with him as I am if not more though. He picks up a weight and throws it at Fang. It hits Fang right in the face and Fang falls to the ground bleeding.
“Shut up,” Walid commands him after the attack.
Fang sits there on the floor bleeding. He doesn't look back at Walid. Hell, Fang turns to me of all people and gives the meanest grimace as though I was the cause of him getting hit with the weight. I don't have time to worry about Fang's distaste for me right now. Fuck Fang.
Walid walks over to me and grabs me. He pulls me close hard by my belt until I'm only an inch from his face. He pulls me so hard to him that our lips smack for a moment.
“You have to respect me!” he warns me and then adds in a low whisper, “Especially around my members of my pack.”
That's what he is concerned about! His image. I turn to the right to see Fang trying to listen into our conversation. Walid's nosy brother is acting as though he's not but I can tell he wants to hear. So I was planning on giving him a mouthful.
“You killed my brother,” I tell Walid.
I'm breathing heavy. I say it loud enough for Walid to hear. By the way Fang looks away it makes me feel like he knows something about this. Maybe Walid's whole pack knows something about it. Maybe they helped Walid kill my brother. Maybe they watched! Maybe he boasted about the act as a way to show his dominance to his pack. Walid always need to be fucking strong! That's all he cares about.
I don't know if I want to cry or fight him. I don't know why I'm so emotional. I had SEX with Walid. Multiple times. Over and over. This is the boy that killed my brother. Mayorga told me earlier in the day and I've spent the day looking for Walid. I wanted to qualify this shit. I want Walid to tell me that Mayorga is fucking lying. I want him to tell me so I can hate Mayorga as much as he does.
Walid's face goes from embarrassed to just awkward.
He turns to his brother, “Get out, Fang. Take the human with you.”
Fang looks even more annoyed. He walks over to the man walking on the treadmill. The poor man doesn't see it coming. He grabs the man by the back of his neck. The man almost trips as he is yanked clean off the treadmill in on motion. He screams wondering what's going on but Fang has his grip on him by then. With one hand Fang seems to be showing off his strength as he aggressively carries the unknowing human out of the weight room. Fang slams the door behind him, clearly upset that he has to leave.
When Fang leaves Walid is standing there crossing his arms.
“The stray told you? He's back isn't he?” Walid asks, “Where is he?”
“Fuck Mayorga! I'm talking about my brother! Did you kill him or not Walid!”
Walid's eye twitches when I scream in his face. I can tell he's trying to maintain his composure. I know it's a dangerous game screaming in Walid's face like this. Anyone else probably would have gotten their neck snapped. Hell I just saw him throw a weight at his brother's face for speaking out of turn. Walid wasn't the type to be fucked with. Right now though I was in the belly of the beast and I was fucking angry enough to scream.
“Look. Things are more complicated then you think.”
“Complicated? Complicated!” I ask, “You murdered my brother and failed to tell me. That seems very simple to me.”
“I wanted to tell you. You wouldn't understand.”
“You KILLED HIM!”
Walid grabs me. He growls and for a moment I think he is going to turn into the wolf. I know Walid. He has a hard time talking and arguing without getting physical. He has a hard time with people trying to stick up to him. It's clear he's been the Alpha male in this area for a while. I am almost like a paper bag as he roughly presses me up against the wall. It seems no reason for this action except for him to show how strong he is.
“This isn't Los Angeles. Ok? This is Wolf country,” he explains, “Our ways may seem savage to you but your brother was a savage...just like me. Just like you will be.”
“I don't know what you're talking about.”
“You wouldn't get it,” Walid says shaking his head, “Territory is everything. Your brother was a member of my pack at one point. I bit him. I awakened his wolf. He proved unloyal to me.”
“He had sex with my mate.”
Walid shook his head, “Wolves mate for life. I fell in love with another wolf and Qadir fell in love with the same wolf. Being the Alpha male I chose what wolf I wanted to spend my life with. However it didn't work out that way...”
“Who is this wolf?” I ask.
Walid shakes his head, “You get one guess.”
I think about it. Impossible. At first I'm thinking Naomi. She clearly has feelings for Walid. Whether she wants to admit it or not. It can't be though. He treats the rest of the wolves like they are beneath him. He must have had sex with Naomi a couple of times but if she walks in the room he doesn't evne give her a second stare. He clearly doesn't have feeling for any of the current ones...not even Naomi.
That is the only one that makes sense.
Walid nods, “I knew him as Michael back then. Michael was my Beta. He was my lover. But one day I caught him and Qadir making love in the woods out back. Even though every rule of the wolf tells me I should have killed Qadir right then I ended up banishing him. I kicked him out of the pack but he kept coming back. He kept coming back because he was in love with Mayorga. Mayorga is mine...”
“Is?” I ask.
I don't know why I feel jealousy at this moment. Even at my brother's killer this shit hurts. I can't help the fact that I feel something for Walid. I feel dumb. I feel like a desperate Naomi caught up with for his attention. But I'm not Naomi. When Walid looks at me it makes me wonder if maybe he feels something for me too.
Walid leans in at that moment. He puts his hand on my face in the rare gentle demeanor that he only shows when we are alone, “I meant...was.”
I step away from his touch.
I can't be hypnotized by him. I can't allow him to get me in a weak mindstate.
“You killed my brother,” I remind him.
It's more to remind myself though. As much as I want him to be soft and delicate with me, I can't do that. As much as I might want to kiss Walid I just can't do that.
“Your brother challenged me for the Alpha position,” Walid defended his actions at that moment, “That is the way of the wolf. And he lost and I delivered a fatal blow to him. I know you don't understand.”
“And what about Mayorga? You kicked him out.”
“He mourned your brother...intensely,” Walid explained, “He wouldn't even let us burn your brother. He took your brother's corpse for himself. That is against the rules. It was either kick him out or kill him. I decided to banish him.”
“My brother's corpse...”
“It was a fake,” Walid said shaking his head, “We had to lead the humans to believe he was just attacked by a random animal in the wild so they didn't invade our woods searching for him. God knows where Mayorga took his body. We've been hunting Mayorga ever since trying to get your brother's body back. Trying to give him the cremation that he deserves.”
I don't ask how Walid came up with this fake body. A part of me doesn't want to know. I know enough about these wolves and their ways. They are really savages. My brother was killed over a lover's quarrel? Really? I can't believe it. It made sense though why my dad never wanted to attend my brother's cremation. Did my dad know something about this? Maybe my dad was still afraid back then that maybe not.
“Is that why he killed India?”
“She was hunting for her pack. He got too close. Unfortunately she lost,” Walid says, “Everyone picks a side. It's the way of the wolf. Sure. I killed your brother because I had to. Mayorga killed India...because he had to. That's the way of things. That's the way of the wolf.”
It makes sense.
He mentions picking a side and I'm sitting there thinking. What side was I on?
“I shouldn't be telling you this. I shouldn't be...warning you,” I told him, “Mayorga is back. It's because he wants revenge.”
I don't know why I'm doing this. I don't know why I'm warning him. I feel like I'm betraying Qadir's memory but at that same time I feel like Qadir made the choice to attack Walid. Qadir made the choice to come back and fight him. If he ended up dead in the fight then how could I really blame Walid. That is the mindstate I want to have but it still hurts that I had to find out about this through Mayorga and not directly from Walid.
Qadir made his decision based off of the man he wanted to be with.
And I was making mine.
Walid seems confused by this, “Mayorga turned you. He's most likely welcoming you into his pack. I haven't. I can't. Still...you are loyal to me. Why?”
“I'm doing what's right. I don't think revenge is the answer.”
Walid takes a step towards me, “It more than that. You know it and I know it. Why are you helping the wolf that killed your brother. What could it be?”
Walid is standing so close to me. He smells like sweat. His body has cooled off but the odor from the workout still lingers on him. He invades my personal space again and for some reason I don't give a damn. I'm welcoming him. I want him close to me.
And then I remember finally that he kept his secret from me. I can't just give in so easily...even if I want to. I have to be strong.
“I'm not ready for that.”
I step away from him. I know he's not used to being turned down but he doesn't go crazy.
“I would like you to learn more about the ways of the wolf,” he explained, “Hopefully one day you'll understand why me and Qadir had to fight. Hopefully one day it'll make sense to you. Territory is all the wolf has. You are a lone wolf now. That's not right.”
“Are you asking me to go join Mayorga's pack and learn through him?”
“No. I'm asking you to learn from me. The holiday breaks are coming up. I have a house that tucked away at the very top of Mount Vanderbilt. My pack stays there for the holidays and summer break. It's our home away from the school since a lot of us can't go back home. I'd like you to come and spend the holidays there with me and my pack.”
He was inviting me to his home?
I look at him and seem confused.
“Your pack hates me.”
“Like you said. It's my pack. Are you afraid?”
He laughs a little bit, “I'll protect you. You'll be safe with me.”
“I'll think about it...” I reply.
I know he doesn't expect me to say that. He's not used to someone “thinking about” his request.
Walid shakes his head and touches me on my shoulder, “What are you doing to me Nasir Butler? I'm a survivor. Feed me to the wolves and I return leading the pack. I'm far from weak. Except with you...”
I don't know what he means by that but he doesn't wait for me to answer. He just walks at that moment making me wonder what it was that Walid was doing to me right back.
Finals are tough. I avoid Walid as much as I can. I'm not surprised when every once in a while he comes to my room and tries to open the door. I have it locked. Walid could easily break down the door if he wanted to get in but he doesn't. I wonder if he is starting to respect me. Either way he just retreats away. Evan is still withdrawn to himself. I think I get through it though. I finally manage to come up with a major that I want to declare. I end up declaring Psychology.
By the time winter break comes Walid leaves a note under my door. He has my number to text me but we hardly get any signals so far up in the mountains.
Pick you up at 5. - Walid
It's cute. It's almost like he's asking me out on a date. I know that I haven't even agreed to go spend the holidays at his place but truthfully I want to with all my heart. I just want to be around Walid. I pack my bags and I'm waiting out in front of the house by 4:30.
“Waiting for your Dad?” Evan asks.
“No...just...a friend,” I tell him.
I don't want Evan anymore in my business then he is. I can see he is packed too. Everyone is leaving the campus for winter break. Everyone's headed home.
“Be careful driving,” Evan said, “They are out there.”
I look at Evan confused.
“You know what I'm talking about. The huge wolves.”
I laugh at Evan and blow him off, “Evan this is wolf country. There should be huge wolves.”
“Not like these. Look...”
Evan pulls out his cellphone. He pulls up a picture and he hands it to me. It's a picture of a wolf. I look at the wolf and it's DEFINITELY a werewolf. This wolf though is a strange color. It's a reddish brown wolf. A color that I've never seen before. I am blown away by it.
There were more wolves?
“How did you...find that?”
“I've been tracking them. I've been going in the woods late at night,” Evan said, “Ever since India died, I have to.”
“Can you send that to me?” I ask.
I need to ask Walid who this wolf is. I know it isn't a member of his pack. It isn't Mayorga either. I'm actually lost and who this wolf could possibly be.
“I don't have a signal here. No bars. But as soon as I do, I'll send it over,” he responds before adding almost in a weird way, “It's interesting isn't it?”
“Regular wolves aren't that big.”
I shrug, “Maybe it's some genetic mutation of a wolf or something. There are humans that shouldn't be as tall as they get.”
He shrugs, “It isn't just one of them that I've seen. There is something...happening.”
“Something like what?”
Evan leans over to me, “Do you believe in werewolves?”
I fake a laugh. It's nervous. Evan is stepping on some dangerous fucking territory. His obsession with finding out why India died was driving him crazy.
“Evan you need to get out more.”
“I'm serious. These woods are different from usual ones. There are things in them...monsters...”
Footsteps come out of the house.
“You should stay away from the unknown nerd,” a voice says.
It's Walid. He walks out of the cabin and pushes Evan out of his way. Evan almost falls over into the snow. I go help him up noticing Walid is being a bully. Evan doesn't fight back. I know he isn't going to fight Walid back though. I can't help but to notice how Evan looks at Walid. It's almost like he is afraid. Does Evan know something?
As I pick up Evan I realize I have to warn him, “He's right. Stop looking for things in the woods. It isn't safe.”
Evan doesn't respond. His eyes are just on Walid. Enchanted. Curious.
Walid rolls his eyes though, “Nasir, are you ready to leave?”
“You're going with Walid?” Evan asks.
He seems horrified. It isn't a normal horror. Luckily Walid doesn't seem to be thinking twice about how strange Evan has been acting.
“Walid and I have been hanging out more...”
“Nasir...” Evan says shaking his head. He doesn't say it. He just shakes his head. It's almost like he's trying to warn me. How much does Evan know? Could he suspect Walid is a werewolf? If only he knew that I was one too.
“He's trying to tell you that we're dating,” Walid tells Evan, “And if you know what's good for you, you'd mind your fucking business nerd. Let's go, Nasir.”
Walid grabs me up at that moment. I want to calm Evan down a little bit more but I'm shocked that Walid says that we're dating. The way he grabs me up is almost like I'm his property too. He doesn't seem too.
“When did this happen?” I ask Walid.
He doesn't look at me. He takes me to the side of the cabin where there is a fiery red Jeep Wrangler parked. I didn't know Walid had a Jeep but it definitely fits his personality.
“Shut up and get in,” he responds.
For the first time in a while I listen to what he says without rebutting it. I don't know why I'm smiling so much as Walid pulls me into the car and drives off like a wild man.
Yes. I'm excited. Very excited.
By the time we get to the top of the mountain I realize that I am praying more than I've ever prayed before. I thought my dad's driving was aggressive. Walid drove like a wild man. He drove up the mountain as though it wasn't covered in snow. I felt like I wanted to throw up. I felt like I just got off the highest roller coaster ride.
I slide out the car and almost want to kiss the ground because I'm so afraid.
Walid looks down at me, “What? You ok...”
I roll my eyes at him.
At that moment though I finally realize we are at our location. I look up and see something beautiful. It's a mansion. It's an old scary looking mansion that is among trees. It's sitting at the very top of the mountain and as I walk over I can see the view is spectacular all around us. I can see the school. I can see Vanderbilt town. I can see the slopes of the gigantic mountain below us covered in sheets of glimering white and nestled in endless trees.
This looks like some place Walid would live. It just seems like it is amazing. It felt strong. Powerful. Almost like he owned this mountain.
There were trees around us. A lot of trees...but there were no other houses. It seemed isolated. Honestly it felt unsafe to build a house so mansion so high in the mountains. As I turn and look at the huge house I am impressed. It looks old. It has amazing character. As I get close I see wolf gargoyles staring back down at me.
“This is dope...” I tell him.
I don't know what other word to describe it as.
“Your father lived here before me and the alpha before him lived here. And so on,” Walid explains, “Every Alpha inherits it when they ascend. That's how things work around here. If Vanderbilt is my kingdom, then this is my throne.”
“You think you're a king?”
“Maybe if you're lucky that'd mean one day you'd be my queen,” Walid says.
I smile at that moment from ear to ear before finally realizing what he's saying to me, “I'm not a goddam girl Walid.”
“Man whatever. Let's go. The others are already here.”
I notice what he's looking at but then I notice the other cares pulled up in the drive way. They range from old broken down hoopties to BMWs. There definitely doesn't seem to be a trend about what cars the others in Walid's pack are driving.
As we walk in there's a grand entrance. The staircase is the first thing we see. It's huge. There is a huge statue of a wolf in the center of it. Walid grabs my suitcase and his. I feel like I've overpacked but it seems like it's light work for Walid. He's taking them up the stairs and I follow him closely. The house is old and the stairs creak as I walk. The house smells like pine. The strong scent takes over me as we walk up the stairs.
When we get there he takes me off to the side a room at the top.
“You can stay here,” he tells me, “Go shower and change. Wear something formal if you can. Amina and Naomi went to hunt earlier. It's tradition that we have at least one formal dinner to kick off the week.”
I want to ask him a few questions but Walid doesn't wait on me. He slams the door behind me and disappears. The room is old but clean. To the right there is a bathroom that seems damn near ancient. I walk over and turn on the water. It takes forever to come on. There is one of those stand alone tubs. I look out of the window of the bathroom.
It's getting dark already but from the window I can swear I see something. A wolf? No...two wolves.
I wonder if it's Naomi and Amina coming back from their hunt but I can't tell the color of the fur on the wolves. I just turn away. It's none of my business.
I dress as formal as I can. I put my long hair in a single braid and luckily I packed a nice suit. My dad always taught me to pack a nice suit. Maybe secretly he knew that one day I'd need it for these werewolf traditions or something. I wonder if my dad wants to see me. He's been ignoring all my calls. I mean he's never been the dad to keep checking in all the time but it feels almost like he abandoned me as soon as I was bitten. I wonder if he knew my wolf was awakened now. Supposedly my father had his own pack to worry about. And clearly I wasn't in it.
The thing was though I wasn't in Walid's pack either.
I walk down the steps at that moment and make my way to what seems like a dining hall. It takes me a while to find it. When I walk into the hall I see the others.
The first person I see is Professor Timus. He has on a bowtie and seems very professional except his disgruntled beard. He seems shocked to see me and when I see his reaction I almost know for sure that Walid didn't tell them I was coming.
“Eh-erm,” he clears his throat.
I know he's alerting the others even though he doesn't say anything.
Fang is next to Walid who is at the top of the table. He's super handsome. I have to admit it even though I'm not a fan of his. When he cleans himself up more he looks almost exactly like Walid except a little smaller. Walid is at the head of the table with a suit on the same color as Fang's. His chair is the biggest there. The two girls are across from Fang and the Professor. They look at one another. Naomi leans over and whispers something to Amina.
“Anyone have anything to say?” Walid asks.
I can tell by the look on everyone's face that they are uncomfortable. I can tell that they don't want me here among their pack. I can tell that they even hate me.
Amina rolls her eyes. She doesn't speak much except with Naomi. Fang stares at them and gives them a knowing stare.
It's the professor who answers Walid, “No problem.”
They are more afraid of Walid then they hate me.
Walid looks over to Naomi, “Move bitch.”
She is sitting in the chair to the right of him. It's strange to see them all dressed so nicely but still treat one another so roughly.
“But I always...” Naomi starts but then stops as though catching herself, “I mean. Yes. Sir.”
Naomi gets up. She glares as me hard as she gets up out of the chair and moves to the very end of the table on the other side of Amina.
Walid then walks over to the chair that Naomi just walked out of and pulls it out for me. He signals for me to come over. I am so nervous in this room with all of these people who clearly hate me but Walid is making sure none of them say a fucking word.
It's Amina who stands, “I'll go get the plates. I'll make sure to make an extra.”
“No sit. I'll prepare the plates,” Walid replies.
I'm not sure if he doesn't trust Amina preparing my plates but the way he says it makes me think that might be the case. Could Amina try to spit in my food? Hell...even worse would she try to poison me? Either way Walid doesn't seem to be taking that chance. He gets up and walks into the kitchen at that moment.
As soon as Walid leaves, Fang opens his mouth.
“This is some fucking bullshit,” Fang replies.
“He has this FUCKING mutt at our table,” Naomi replies before looking at me and stabbing the table with a knife, “You fucking stink.”
The way Naomi spits the words out scares the fuck out of me.
I just sit there trying not to let me them see me sweat, “I was invited here. Trust me I don't want to be here.”
That is when Naomi slides her steak knife down the table. She is accurate. The knife slides right in front of me.
“Then kill yourself. And save us the trouble.”
I don't respond. I just sit there feeling the eyes burn into me. All four of them are staring hard at me...even the Professor. I just breathe. I should have offered to give Walid a hand. This has to be the most awkward situation ever. I've never felt so much hate targeted at me in my life. I've never felt so threatened in my life.
“This is nice,” Walid says bringing out a tray rack, “Nice hunt Naomi, Amina.”
Amina smiles, “Thank you sir.”
He places the meat in front of everyone. When he places mine down I look at the meat. It looks so tender that it almost makes me forget where I am. It's barely cooked. Almost raw with a slight brown to it. There are no sides. No vegetables. Hell...it isn't even seasoned. Just the huge flesh of meat sitting there.
I grab the meat with my hands.
“Wow...” Fang says clearly watching me.
“Use your knife and fork,” Walid tells me.
He's right. I am being uncivilized. The others aren't eating. They are just watching me. It's almost like I'm on display. I don't get why Walid brought me here. It's beyond awkward. I know he's trying but this is just the worst.
“I lost my appetite,” Naomi replies.
Her stares are deadly as she watches me eat the meat.
“Eat. Now,” Walid announces, “To all of you. I am matching Fang with Amina. She'll be your mate...”
I didn't even know Fang was into Amina. I guess it didn't matter though. Walid seems to be making that decisions for them...even when it came to love. Neither of them seem happy or upset about it really. Maybe they were expecting it. It seems so...anti-climatic.
They each raise their glasses of wine. I watch as they toast with one another over it. None of them toast with me though. None of them except Walid.
Regardless they seem to be calming down their anger...slowly at least. The professor even begins to talk about the weather a little bit mentioning a storm. It's super awkward conversation that he seems to be having with himself but at least it's a conversation.
Walid cuts him off, “Raise your glasses again.”
We all do as Walid says.
“What are we toasting to this time?” Professor Timus asks.
Walid stares across the table.
“I'm adopting Nasir into the pack.”
My mouth drops open. What the---
He never said anything like that to me. He never mentioned it at all. The others seem to have a reaction even more surprising then shock.
Fang is shaking. He is LITERALLY SHAKING. He stands up. He isn't the only one. Naomi stands up as well. And they turn to me.
Walid stands up as well.
“Sit...” Walid tells them.
The two aren't sitting. It's Fang who grunts out a hard, “No...”
It's clear what's happening. They are finally at their limit. Walid has finally pushed them to the point of disobeying. The anger in them is beginning to change them.
They are morphing...RIGHT HERE AT THE TABLE! They are becoming wolves. And they are looking at me. Their eyes glow.
They are prepared to attack me...
They are prepared to kill me...
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