Authors: Samantha Horne
“Seriously?” I chuckled. “Blake who is about four times the size of me, and looks like he spends every second lifting weights down the gym, couldn’t get down from the tree?”
“See, that’s the thing. Blake is the toughest guy I know underneath all the bravado. Seriously, put him in a fight with ten men against just him and he will win, but when faced with his biggest fear he just fails to function.”
“He’s scared of trees?”
“No, he’s scared of heights. Like, terrified. He was trying to act all cocky and stuff but he was literally shaking.”
“Why the hell did he climb a tree when he is terrified of heights?”
“He said he was trying to conquer his fear, but all he did in the end was put himself off tree climbing for life. Now do you see the kind of crap I have to put up with on a daily basis?” I laughed, and relaxed back in to cushions on the sofa. I was grateful to Jackson for distracting me from my worries after the fire, even if just for a moment.
Drinks in the pub. 10 Minutes.
I sighed as I read the text message that had just come through on my phone. I knew why the guys wanted me to meet them at Logan’s. Pretty much to rip the shit out of me about Laura.
I hopped in my car and took the ten minute drive to The Howl, already dreading the probing questions I was bound to be asked. I stepped inside and noticed the pub was half full, with Logan at the bar, serving. I walked over to the corner where Noah, Isaac and Blake were sat, drinking beers and laughing about something.
Great, all the brothers together.
It could have been worse, though. Ethan was normally the worst for taking the piss, so I was extremely grateful that he was clearly otherwise engaged.
“Bro! Sit, we got you a beer already.” Blake passed me the bottle.
“Everything’s great. We haven’t had a good drinking sesh in a while, so thought it would be cool to just hang for a bit.” Blake answered, his eyes checking out the girl in the corner who worked in the local hairdressers.
“You know it’s rude not to look at someone when they’re talking to you.”
“Please, if it’s a choice between looking at your ugly mug and that gorgeous girl? It’s obvious who I’m gonna be focusing on.” The guys all laughed, and after about five minutes of small talk to catch up, the topic swung around to the one person I would really rather not talk about.
“So, how is Laura?” Blake asked with a smile on his face.
Isaac spoke before I was able to answer. “She still planning on sticking around?”
“Yeah, she’s here for good, why? I thought you were cool with her now?” I felt my hackles rising, and was confused by how quickly anger overtook me at the thought of anyone being negative towards Laura.
“Chill, Jackson. I like her. I was just curious about what her plans were now. It’s obvious someone in town doesn’t want her here. It would probably be safer for her if she did leave.”
I wish I could deny that; but it’s true.
“You’re pretty quick jumping to her defence,” smirked Blake, and I punched him on the arm probably harder than I would normally, to get him to shut up.
“Are they any developments on that front?” I asked, trying to deflect the conversation away from the feelings I had towards Laura.
“We can’t find any trace of anyone other than wolves from our pack. It’s looking pretty certain it was one of our own guys who set the fire.”
“We need to find out who did it.” Blake said. “They may have been aiming for Laura, but that building had my girls in it, and I’m not gonna let it lie until I kill whoever did it.”
The guys got serious for a moment; thinking about how much worse the situation could have been.
“We’ll find out who did it. My men are working on it day and night, and I’m keeping my head low but one ear to the ground; always. The best thing we can do is go on like normal, but keep an eye on our families. Whoever did this will get a false sense of security, and is bound to try something again. We need to make sure that we’re ready for them, when they do.”
The rest of the evening was spent downing beers, and coming up with various plans of action should anything else happen. There was a sense of unease in the whole town lately, and I didn’t like it one bit.
I needed a break. Don’t get me wrong, I’d been having the best time hanging out with Jackson and his family each night, reading bedtime stories to Annabelle, and enjoying friendly banter with Jackson’s men who came in and out of the house like there was a revolving door on the front of it. I felt safe and happy; I really wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. But, I couldn’t help but feel like something was missing. I felt like I belonged here at the same time as still feeling somewhat of an outsider, with everyone knowing the secrets of the town apart from me. Although most people in the small town had gotten used to me by now, there were some who avoided me like the plague. There were whispered conversations that I wasn’t allowed to hear, and I still couldn’t understand why Jackson was out at all times of the day doing a million different jobs despite just being one man. Why did he need so many ‘enforcers’ and what did that word even mean? It felt like he was mayor of the town, at the same time as being head of the law enforcement, fire department, security and everything in between. It could just be that he was a good guy, but my gut told me that there was more to it, and I now always listened to my gut. If I’d done so in the first place, maybe I would have seen Craig for the lying git he was behind all the sweet talk. But then I wouldn’t be here right now, and have these amazing friends. I had decided to take a walk through the woods to get some fresh air and stretch my legs, after being cooped up inside and watched like a hawk after the fire. It was sweet how protective everyone was, but sometimes a girl needed time to think on her own without someone asking her every five minutes if she was okay.
I’d been walking for about an hour, when I looked up and realised that I was completely lost. Not in an ‘I know roughly where I am so will be able to figure it out myself’ kind of lost, but an ‘I genuinely don’t know if I’ll get home alive’ kind of lost. Trying not to panic, I looked around to see if there was anything in the vicinity to offer any familiarity. All I could see were trees, and I cursed myself for being adventurous and stepping off the carefully laid path. If I’d stayed on it I would have just been able to follow it back home, or at the very least ended up at someone’s house to be able to ask for directions. As it was, I’d gotten lost in my thoughts and taken a route I couldn’t even remember taking. I turned around, and started walking in the direction I came, hoping that something would stand out or I would come across the path soon.
Two hours later and it had started getting dark, whilst I had gradually engaged panic mode – now fully operational. For two hours I had come across nothing but trees and more trees. No people, no buildings and not even any animals, which was strange. Normally the forest was full of the hustle and bustle of small animals like squirrels and rabbits; however in this forest there was an eerie stillness. The air was heavy and quiet. There weren’t even any birds to fill the creepy silence, and offer a soundtrack for my lonely walk. I tried not to think about the fact that animals may be avoiding the area for a reason, and instead tried to focus on getting myself out of the situation. Before embarking on my walk, I’d thrown my phone on to my bed and left it behind so there would be nothing to distract me from the peace and quiet of the forest.
Yes, I know. I’m an idiot
I was just walking through a particularly dense part of the forest, when I heard a twig snap and all my senses went on alert. Just because there didn’t seem to be any animals in the area, didn’t mean that something more sinister wasn’t lurking in the depths of the trees. Trying not to make any sound, I attempted to calm my racing heart and quiet my breathing in case I needed to avoid anyone’s attention. Just then, I heard a noise that sent shivers down my spine. A quiet, animalistic growl pierced the silence, before building into a noise that made me jump back in fright. Several other growls join the darkness, and I looked forward in horror to see four pairs of yellow eyes through the trees, all narrowed on me. I started to step back, but the eyes came closer, and my heart dropped as I saw four of the biggest and meanest looking wolves I had ever seen in my whole life. Around three times the size of a regular wolf, these beasts were walking towards me as if I was the tastiest meal they had ever seen, and they slowly crept towards me, growling and baring their teeth. My heart seemed to stop as the terror took hold, and I tried to engage my brain and find a way out of the somewhat dire predicament I was in. At least I now knew that the wolf I had by the stream was in fact real, and not a figment of my quite clearly stressed imagination.
Every cloud and all that
Stepping further back, with no better plan springing to mind, I cried out as the biggest wolf at the front of the group suddenly launched itself at me, and I could not stop the scream that escaped as I felt its teeth sink down and latch on to my forearm. I struggled to stay awake as the pain was so intense that I felt lightheaded with nausea, and my stomach dropped as I saw the other three launch themselves towards me as well, my ticket to what could only be a painful and gory death. Before I could even blink, the weight of the black wolf was gone and I screamed as his teeth were ripped from my arm, blood spurting everywhere. Another wave of nausea hit and I cradled my arm as I tried not to vomit when an arrow of intense pain shot through both it, and the entire left side of my body. I looked up and had to blink my eyes a couple of times in order to believe what I could see in front of me. There were now even more wolves surrounding me, but there seemed to be a divide between the two as they fought each other all around me. There were six new wolves, slightly smaller than the first four, but just as aggressive as they fought them in a viscous battle which had me shaking in both terror and relief. The whole thing frightened me to death, but I couldn’t help but feel that it would have been a lot worse had these six wolves not turned up. For some reason, these wolves were protecting me. Either that or they just wanted to fight those other wolves for eating rights and would dig right in once they’d won.
Crap, I didn’t even think about that
. I quickly crawled backwards, trying to stand but a wave of dizziness hit, and the pain in my arm made me groan out loud as I fell back down to a heap on the forest floor. The largest wolf of the new group suddenly stopped fighting and turned to look at me, and I involuntarily started to shake when he stalked closer to me. I couldn’t stop myself staring at his vivid green eyes, as a feeling of familiarity washed over me and I struggled to pull my gaze away. I knew I’d seen those eyes before, as impossible as it was to explain. A small whine came from the big wolf as he stared at me, and his head tilted as if contemplating something about me.
I hope to God he’s not wondering if I’m tasty or not, because otherwise I need to figure out some way to make myself completely inedible in the next ten seconds.
I hadn’t even managed to process the thoughts in my head that were screaming at me that we didn’t even get wolves here, and asking where the bloody hell did they come from?!
I really can only focus on one thing at a time
. The fight suddenly stopped and blessed silence filled the air as the original four wolves turned and ran away, with just two of the new wolves taking flight after them. Great, so after all of that I still had four wolves looking at me, except now I was injured and pretty sure I was close to passing out. Again. As all of my senses abruptly returned, the pain in my arm became unbearable and I started to cry as I longed for a hot bath and for my arm to just be alright again.
Please let this night just be a horrible nightmare.
I knew the pain had made me delirious and I’d fully lost it, when I blinked and the wolves had vanished. In their place were Isaac, Ethan and Blake, with Jackson standing closest to me. All four were looking at me with matching concern on their faces, but they were also all completely and wonderfully naked. Okay, nothing I could have ever dreamed up had lived up to the vision before me. Each one of the men had muscles on top of muscles, with a large build and so many tattoos I couldn’t tell where some ended and others began. I started to blush as I noticed from the smirks on their faces that they’d spotted me checking them out, but then I remembered I was dreaming so I didn’t really care and just enjoyed the sight before me.
Thank you, imagination
. Jackson crouched down, and before I could say anything, pulled me up in to his arms as if I were as light as a feather and not a top heavy size 16 with an arse that could have its own postcode. He started to walk with me and I realised that all my strength had left me, so I pulled my arms up around his neck and rested my head on his shoulder. It also helped that he was like a human radiator and the chills that had wracked my body from the night air completely disappeared. I saw his lips curve up slightly and I smiled, noticing when I spoke that my voice was slurring slightly from the pain as I was about ten seconds away from unconsciousness.