Trouble’s on the Way
CL Mustafic © 2018
All Rights Reserved
Almost nine hours of sitting in the pickup with Damian gave me plenty of time to think. Part of me thought going with him to Alabama was an okay idea. Sure the money would probably be decent, and since I was no longer gainfully employed, what did I have to lose? Another part of me thought I was crazy for not only shacking up with the guy who’d turned me into a werewolf, but now I was letting him drag me halfway across the country. Maybe contracting lycanthropy had messed up my ability to make a good decision.
I glanced over at Damian, who was concentrating on the road signs because he was looking for the exit just outside Iowa City that would lead us to one of the campgrounds. I couldn’t lie to myself enough to pretend I wasn’t attracted to him. Hell, who didn’t have a fantasy about the tattooed bad boy? Reminding myself Damian wasn’t the stereotypical bad boy, I tore my eyes off him before he could feel me staring. I spotted the exit we were looking for, but before I could point it out, Damian switched lanes and pulled off the interstate.
“You sure you don’t want to drive? We could make it to Tuscaloosa by morning and sleep the day away,” Damian asked for the millionth time.
“I told you I don’t want to drive this rig and I’m tired anyways.” I’d dozed some but not enough to stay awake and drive all night. Plus, I wasn’t confident about my ability to drive the pickup with a thirty-five-foot trailer attached to it.
“You’d only have to drive for about four hours, and then I’d be fresh enough to take over, but if you’re too scared to drive, I’m fine with that.” A grin tugged at the corner of his lip at his dig, but all I had to do was let a growl rumble up out of my chest to kill his urge to smile.
Pulling up to the campground’s reception building, Damian got out of the truck and stretched before turning back to me. “I’ll go pay for the night. You want to run into the store and maybe get us some snacks and beer?”
“Sure. You want anything special?” I opened my own door but waited for his response instead of getting out.
“Maybe some ice cream, chocolate, oh, and some nachos and gummy worms.”
“Are you pregnant?” I snorted and shook my head at his request as I dropped down to the ground from the pickup.
“You know those are just stories, right?” Damian called over the hood of the pickup at me.
“Hey, I have no idea what to believe anymore. I used to think werewolves were just stories.” I made air quotes around “just stories” to get my point across, making him roll his eyes at me.
“Go get me my junk food.” Turning, Damian went to pay for our stay while I went into the little convenience store.
The woman behind the counter watched my every move as I loaded down the little red basket with Damian’s requested junk food and then grabbed a case of beer to go with it. She rang up the sale but before she was done, Damian came in the door. Her eyes widened and I could smell the change in the atmosphere around her. Apparently, she also liked bad boys, and her interest in what my beast thought of as his brought out its jealousy.
“Hey, are you buying the whole store or what?” Damian’s sexy grin was at full wattage as he sauntered up to the counter. Turning it on the woman, he nodded a greeting, making her blush like a school girl.
“Not my fault your cravings are so weird.” I managed to swallow the possessive warning my beast wanted to growl out at the woman. Instead, I put my arm around Damian’s waist and pulled him to my side, making his smile falter. Taking it a step further when the woman’s scent didn’t change once she saw Damian wasn’t on the market, I pointed to the row of condoms behind her. “Give me three boxes of the magnums too. I have a feeling we’re going to need them tonight.” I winked as Damian stiffened at my side.
“Make it four.” I reached down and squeezed Damian’s ass. His arousal wafted up to join that of the woman’s, who’d turned to get the requested condoms. She didn’t make eye contact with either of us as she finished tallying the items and took my card. “Have a good night.” I practically sang the words as we walked out the door.
Damian pushed away from me when we hit the parking lot. “What the fuck was that all about?” His glare would have been much more menacing if I hadn’t found his mismatched eyes to be so damn alluring; plus his anger only made my beast want to make him submit to it.
“What was what all about?” I shrugged and held out the bags I was carrying in one hand. “Just getting stuff for the night.”
“And what do you expect to do with twelve condoms?” His eyes narrowed as he tried to cross his arms over his chest, forgetting he was holding the case of beer, so he had to drop them back down to his sides.
He had me there. We didn’t use condoms, since neither of us could catch anything, so did he think I’d intended to go out and find someone else for the night? Shit. That was not my intention, but just to see how pissed off I could make him, I decided to throw the possibility out there. “Well, maybe there will be a hot guy in the spot next to us. We should be prepared, right?”
“You’re an asshole.” Damian stomped off to the truck and before I could get in, he pulled away, leaving me to walk behind.
He was right. I was an asshole, but he knew that, so it was his fault for sticking around. Our spot was a bit down the road from the lodge and when I got there, Damian had already hooked up the power and was standing by the door pressing the button that pushed out the pop outs on the camper. I’d only glanced inside before we’d left so when I stepped past him, I had to stop and stare.
“Holy shit, this thing is huge.” I looked over my shoulder at Damian, who was squatting to pet Stumple and Grumpkin, his cats.
“I wanted there to be enough room for both of us so we wouldn’t have to be tripping over each other.” Damian stood and walked across the kitchen to the living room at the end of the trailer where I was inspecting the entertainment system. “There’s only one bedroom but if you want to bring someone back here, I can always sleep on one of the convertibles.”
I turned to look at him because I could tell he was hurt, and though I’d wanted to keep the space between us, I didn’t much like him feeling he didn’t matter to me. He did mean something to me; I just wasn’t sure what. I crowded him up against the wall, pressing my body to his, making his breath catch. “You’ll sleep where I tell you to sleep. And if I want you in the bed with me while I’m fucking someone else, you’ll lay there and watch,” I growled. Where the fuck did that come from?
Damian whimpered. He knew when my beast was talking and his beast deferred to mine, always. It still boggled my mind how his huge wolf was afraid of my tiny puppy one. “I hate you sometimes, you know that?” he asked through clenched teeth.
“I know, and the feeling’s mutual.” I stepped back and let him go about taking care of the cats and then hooking up the water. I would have helped, but I had no idea how to do any of the things that made the camper run. I went to the bedroom on the other end of the trailer and grabbed a fresh pair of underwear before going into the bathroom and taking a shower.
When I came out of the steamy little room, Damian had changed into a pair of low-hanging sleep pants. He was curled into one of the arm chairs in the corner, watching a movie with Stumple purring on his lap and his array of snacks on a folding tray next to him. I grabbed a beer from the fridge and sat on the couch. Grumpkin jumped up and sat next to me, and after sending a look at his owner, he lay his head on my lap and started purring.
“Fuck you too,” Damian mumbled to the cat before shoving a handful of gummy bears in his mouth.
“How can you eat all that shit?” I shook my head in disgust as he chased the gummies with a spoonful of ice cream.
“Fast metabolism. If I don’t eat like this, I’ll start looking like you.” He let his eyes run over my upper body, which I’d noticed lately was getting a little scrawnier than it normally was. “I told you, the beast needs food; either you feed it or it eats away at you.” He shrugged and filled his mouth with chips so his next words were interspersed with crunching noises. “Take advantage of it while you can, eat the good shit before the beast gets old and tired and then you get a pot belly.”
I leaned over and grabbed a handful of his chips. “You do know you could eat something a little healthier and still keep weight on, right?” He shrugged and went back to happily munching on his treats. I couldn’t get into the movie he’d started watching, so I decided maybe it was time to learn a little about the man I was living with. We did very little talking, and I knew exactly nothing about Damian beyond the things Blaine had told me, which I suspected were mostly lies. “So where are you from, exactly?”
Damian turned to me with a surprised look on his face. He swallowed and took a drink of his beer. “I’m from a tiny town outside Tuscaloosa. Why?”
“I just realized I don’t know anything about you, really. I sort of figured, with that accent of yours, you were from somewhere down here, but I thought you’d stay clear of your home territory if you left your pack,” I said and took a drink of my own beer. “There’s not some rule against a guy like you going back to their pack’s territory?” It seemed odd, but then I didn’t know much about werewolf packs other than the fucked-up shit that went down at the Outcast compound. I hoped all packs weren’t like that, but I wondered how bad had Damian’s been for him to think Outcast was better?
“I left on my own. I’m not exiled, so though I’m sure I won’t be welcomed with open arms, they won’t attack me or anything. Plus, there’s some treaties that have been made for weres who have to travel for work. As long as we follow the pack’s treaty rules for visiting weres, we’ll be fine.” Damian looked uncomfortable when talking about his past, and that only made me want to dig deeper because, as he pointed out, I’m an asshole.
“So why did you leave?”
His arm stopped halfway to the tray where he was going to set his beer down. Reversing course, he chugged the rest of the can before getting up to grab another. “Do you really want to know or are you just trying to push my buttons?” He opened the new can before he got back to his chair.
“I really want to know.” At first, I might have been trying to push his buttons, but now, I was curious. I’d heard pack members mention Damian having something called the mate bond. I wasn’t stupid, so I figured I sort of knew what it was, but I didn’t know exactly what it meant or why someone would run from it.
“I’m sure you heard what Old Ted said about the mate bond thing.” I nodded, letting him know I’d heard it. “That’s why I left. I didn’t want it, and the only way to get out of being pressured into it was to leave.”
“Was the guy that ugly?” I was trying to joke, but his face scrunched up in a sneer.
“Seriously? He was a scrawny little weakling, but that’s not why I didn’t want to mate with him.” Damian finished his newly opened beer and got up again.
“You do know there’s a bottle of vodka in the freezer.” I only mentioned it because I was pretty sure he needed something stronger if he wanted to get drunk, which looked to be what he was aiming for.
“Shit, yeah, I forgot about you and your vodka.” He grabbed the bottle out of the freezer and two tumblers—looked like I was getting some too. I wasn’t going to complain. I took the glass he handed me and let him pour me a healthy shot. He shooed Grumpkin off the couch and sat at the other end. “It wasn’t anything to do with him physically that caused me to run away, well not due to attractiveness at least. There’s this huge pressure put on mated pairs and my parents were the type who were always looking to gain more status in the pack. This was their chance, and they were going to push until I accepted Billy Ray whether I liked it or not.”
“Billy Ray?” I snorted out a laugh.
“Yeah, Billy Ray Hicks.”
I couldn’t hold my laughter, even though Damian looked serious as all get out, because man, if there was ever a hillbilly name, Billy Ray Hicks would be it.
“It’s not that funny.” Damian poked me in the side when I didn’t stop laughing.
“Oh, it so is. Please tell me he had a mullet?”
“No, he didn’t have no mullet. Shit, what the hell? Ya know we got stereotypes ’bout y’all up North too.” His accent came out full force and made me grin.
“Oh yeah? Tell me one that’s as funny as Billy Ray Hicks and his mullet.”
“You want to hear more or you just going to laugh like a grade schooler?”
I tried to calm myself but every time I thought I’d managed it, a giggle would escape, and Damian would glare that much harder at me. Finally, I took some deep breaths and a gulp of my vodka, and that seemed to do the trick. “Okay, I’m done. So how does this mate bond work exactly? I mean, aren’t you going insane from want because the bond is pulling at you or some shit?”
“You’re stupid,” Damian said, shaking his head at me. He sighed. “And I’m totally starting to wonder what the fuck type of shit you read.”
“Fan fiction, loads of fan fiction.” I snapped my mouth shut, knowing I’d just given him something personal about myself that I had never intended to share.
“Nah, mostly I like the comic sections, but yeah, some Harry Potter.”
“Do you write it?” His smirk told me he thought the answer would be even more embarrassing than me admitting I read it, but he was wrong.
“Nope, I read. I don’t write. I leave that to people who can spell. So, then what exactly does the mate bond do then? Like how do you know it’s even there?” Maybe werewolves just made that shit up?
“I can feel it, but then there’s also this”—he pointed at his eyes—“the way you know you’ll have a bonded mate.”
“Wait, so you knew all your life you’d have a mate?” I stared at his eyes, wondering how weird it was to know you had one of someone else’s eyes in your head and you were fated to be with that person.
“Yeah, I knew, but I also knew that there are some, no, actually, most bonded mates never find their other half. Think about how many people there are in the world. It’s amazing anyone finds their other half.”
“So you grew up knowing that this guy was going to be your mate? That’s fucked up.”
“No, Billy Ray didn’t move into our pack until he came for college. He was going to the University of Alabama. It’s pretty common to have packs close to big cities, out in the middle of nowhere but in easy driving distance from a bigger town, so it’s not unusual for parents with kids going out of state for college to set something up with one of the local packs. Billy Ray moved into the dorms, but he came out to the compound for the full moons. After he and I met, and by met, I mean after everyone in the pack saw his eyes and dragged me down to the café to meet him, he came out to see me. Sorta like you and Blaine.”
I flinched at the mention of Blaine, who I guessed was now both mine and Damian’s ex-boyfriend. “And?”
“And I could feel the bond when I got close enough to him.” He shrugged and threw back what was left in his glass before filling it once more.
“I don’t get it.”
“Don’t get what? That I didn’t want to have the person I spent the rest of my life with be chosen for me? That I didn’t even get along with Billy Ray all that well? That I knew I’d never be enough to protect him because god knew he wasn’t going to be able to protect himself?”
“Things aren’t as simple as just wanting to fuck someone sometimes. There’s lots of things you have to think about when you’re in a pack. You saw that for yourself. Pack politics can be brutal, and I know with my parents pushing, shit would have gotten bad. I’m not a strong alpha. I’m not cut out to lead, and that’s what they would have expected from me,” Damian said, sounding completely down on himself.
“I think you’re brave.” I slapped his knee as I stood up. “Knowing your limits is a good thing, and being a big enough man to act when you know shit isn’t right takes guts.” I held my hand out for him and he took it so I could pull him up off the couch. “Let’s go fuck.”
Damian nodded, his eyes lighting up when he smiled. Talking usually only got us into a fight, fucking was something we were good at doing and I didn’t feel like fighting. I could take Damian’s mind off what must be one hell of a mind fuck at going back to his home territory. This time, he’d have me by his side, and my beast growled at the thought of anyone trying to take what was his. Someone would die before my beast let Damian go. I was sure of it.