Alesondro and I headed home to try and find D’Arcy almost as soon as he left us in the café. I knew he was upset seeing us together there. I hated that I had kept our relationship a secret from him. I wished that I could take it back and do it over. Unfortunately, D’Arcy was no where to be found.
When he didn’t return to our house that night, I searched all over campus. He never showed up for any of our classes and I couldn’t find him in any of the labs.
He wasn’t in any of our usual hang out spots, either. I spent hours at the comic book store, his favorite place, and never saw him. I had Alesondro looking for him, too. We eventually met up in one of the study rooms in the coffee shop.
Alesondro grabbed my hands. “I don’t think we’re going to find him,” he said. I was touched that he was so concerned about my imaginary friend. Alesondro hadn’t known him as long as I had, but he knew how much D’Arcy meant to me.
“I’m sorry,” he comforted me. “I looked everywhere. I even went to the frat house to see if he crashed there.”
“I looked everywhere. It’s like he disappeared.”
Alesondro nodded. “Maybe he did disappear. He is a Fae Toy. No one could see him but you and people like me.”
That reminded me that D’Arcy was friends with some of the Fairies on campus. “Did you check the Fairy dorm? What did his friend Ruby say?”
“I checked there first,” Alesondro reassured me. “I talked to Ruby. She said that he may have realized that you didn’t need him anymore, so he could have vanished.”
“Vanished?…” I cried. “Forever?!”
“But he couldn’t have?” I shook my head. “I do need him. He’s my best friend!”
“But he’s an imaginary friend. You have real friends who love you. Like me.”
“I know, but…” I wiped tears from my eyes.
“Natasha. You have to face it that he’s gone, but you’re not alone. I love you.”
“You do?” I smiled through my tears. It was the first time that Alesondro had said that to me.
“I love you, too.”
Alesondro hugged me and rubbed my back. “Let’s go home,” he said.
D’Arcy didn’t come back that term. Alesondro was pretty patient with me about it even though I knew he wished I would just forget about D’Arcy. He told me he loved me every day, which did make me feel a bit better. He also offered to let me come home with him during the break.
“Come to Moonlit Falls,” he said over breakfast. “It’s beautiful there. There are some great places to see. You’ve seen some of my landscapes. I want to show you the real thing.”
“But what if…” Alesondro quieted me with a look.
“No, Nat. If he was back at your sisters, you said it yourself. That witch maid would have called you. He’s gone.”
“I know. I just can’t help hoping.”
“Come home with me. You won’t have to think about him there.”
“Alright,” I agreed. And when the term ended, I headed to Moonlit Falls.
Going home with Alesondro was an interesting experience. He lived in a huge house with a white picket fence. It had a large garden and a lot of trees. It wasn’t at all what I expected.
“You live here?” I asked when we first arrived.
“Yes. It’s a pack house.”
He smiled. “You’ll see.”
A pack house, it turns out, is a place where werewolves live together. In this case, it was a group of young, unattached werewolves. There were two women and two men. Alesondro, it turns out, was the leader of the household.
I learned a lot about werewolves and werewolf packs staying with Alesondro. The first thing I learned was that while werewolves are friendly to outsiders, unless you were part of the pack, they didn’t truly welcome you.
When I first arrived, it was the day before the summer festival. Alesondro told me all about it in the car ride over. I was looking forward to experiencing it. However, on the actual day of the festival, I felt excluded. Alesondro spent the whole day with his friends. They did water balloon fights and an eating contest. I tried to play along, but there was never any room for me.
I tried to tell Alesondro that I had done eating contests with my dad, but he and the others said I couldn’t compete with werewolf appetites. I had to agree that it was probably true. I tried to tell myself I was content as a watcher.
“Don’t mind her,” Alia told me. “She’s grumpy in the morning. She needs coffee before she can shift back.”
“Oh. Well, thanks for allowing me to stay here,” I said.
“It’s nothing,” Alia smiled. “Alesondro’s the leader. He invited you, so here you are.”
“But it’s your house, too. I don’t want to put anyone out while I’m here.”
“No worries. Just take a turn at kitchen duty every now and then.”
“I can do that.”
Werewolves eat a lot, so I did exactly as Alia had advised and helped in the kitchen. I also helped Marcus, one of the guys, in the garden.
“You have a lot of interesting plants here.”
“Yes,” he said. He was the least social of the group. “I cultivate them for my experiments.”
“Oh? I am a science major. What sort of experiments do you do?”
“I am a doctor. I’m actually working on a reversal technique for the werewolf bite and also for the vampire bite.”
“That’s interesting. People actually want to cure themselves?”
I was pretty lonely in Moonlit Falls. Alesondro spent a lot of time with his pack. They had hunting trips together on the nights of the full moon and sometimes even when the moon wasn’t full. I had always known that werewolves could change any time. I just thought that it was an involuntary action. I hadn’t realized that sometimes they just did it because they wanted to.
“I miss this during the school year,” Alesondro explained to me. “It’s important that I reconnect with the pack. It helps me keep my position.”
“One of the others could be leader?”
“They could. But I’d have to show them that I wasn’t the most capable for the job first.”
Most of the time I spent with Alesondro was when we were in bed together. But sometimes even then I didn’t see him. If he was out with the pack, he might not make it back until morning. Sometimes I wished that I hadn’t agreed to follow Alesondro home. I missed my sister and my nephews. I missed Delia. I really missed D’Arcy, but I tried not to think of him.
When my loneliness finally got the better of me, I told Alesondro I was thinking of going home. He felt awful.
“I’m sorry. I’ve been terrible. I’ll do better. We can go out tonight. Just the two of us.”
“It’s ok,” I told him.
“No it’s not. I love you. You deserve a night out.”
“I love you, too.” I said. “And I’d love a night out.”
So we went to a place called Varg’s Tavern that looked more like a gentleman’s club than a tavern. We were practically the only ones there…or maybe it just felt like it. Alesondro and I spent the evening dancing together and having an intimate dinner. It was the most fun I had while in Moonlit falls.
Unfortunately, our date didn’t really change the fact that I was alone in a house full of people. I tried to keep my mind off of it, but you can only run so much, only sight see by yourself so often before you realize that something might be up.
Another thing I noticed about werewolves while in Moonlit falls was how sexual they got when they changed to their wolf forms. The two other men and women in the house were involved with each other…I couldn’t ever figure out who was with whom, though. And that left me and Alesondro.
He had never really spent a lot of time around me in his wolf form while we were at the university. We also hadn’t been intimate for very long. So I really didn’t know about this side of him until I arrived in the pack house. I may have loved him, but I really didn’t like it when he kissed me with a mouth full of sharp teeth.
“That hurts!” I scolded him when he bit me once. “You should change back before you kiss me.”
“I’ll be more careful,” Alesondro leered at me. “Come here.”
“No. Your nails are sharp, too. I’m not a wolf, Alesondro. I have fragile skin.”
“I’ll be gentle,” he promised. “Just come and pet me. You can tame the beast in me,” he teased. He looked at me with puppy dog eyes and I gave in. Still, half the time he didn’t realize that he sometimes did scratch me or bite me a little too hard.
I wasn’t the only one that Alesondro could get a bit over affectionate with. I started noticing that he was a bit too friendly with the other ladies in the house. Wolf or not, I didn’t think their boyfriends would approve.
When I asked him about it, however, he just said, “Wolf are affectionate people. It’s nothing serious. Everyone in the pack is like that. You’re just not used to it.”
“Well…I just hope they don’t get the wrong idea. I mean, if you weren’t so affectionate with me, I might have reason to be jealous.”
“There is no reason to be jealous. I love you. You know that.”
I was a fool. I had no idea what went on during full moon nights. I didn’t know what they were all up to when they just went out to hunt. I just believed.
It took me walking in on Alesondro and Veronica in his study to realize how stupid I was. He had changed into a wolf and she was still human. She didn’t seem to mind his rough embrace or his biting kiss.
“What the hell is this going on?” I shouted, seeing them. They jumped apart pretty quickly.
“It’s not what you think,” Alesondro said.
“Of course it is! You were just kissing her!”
“Come outside and we’ll talk about it,” Alesondro said.
“I don’t want to go outside with you like this. Change back and then come out.”
“No. Change back.”
Eventually he managed to change back. Then we went out onto the lawn to talk. The rest of the pack could hear us in the house. I figured they might still be able to hear us, but at least we had the illusion of privacy.
“It really isn’t what you think,” Alesondro said when he came out. “I’ve told you that wolves are affectionate.”
“Yes, but kissing isn’t simple puppy affection. That’s more.”
“Not really. You know how we get when we change.”
“Yes, but she has a boyfriend! And you have a girlfriend!”
“Actually I don’t,” said Veronica who had followed us outside. I turned on her and growled worthy of a werewolf.
“What about Marcus?” I demanded.
“Marcus is a friend.”
“So you always go around kissing your friends?”
“I’ve been trying to explain this to you,” Alesondro stepped in. “Werewolves mate for life, but until then, we’re sort of…”
“Slutty?” I sneered, looking directly at Veronica.
“No. Affectionate,” Alesondro said.
“Well, I don’t want you to be affectionate with anyone but me.”
“That’s not fair,” Veronica said. “Alesondro is the leader.”
“I don’t care. This conversation doesn’t involve you!” I snarled. Vero glared at me but then she stomped off.
Alesondro and I kept arguing. I refused to see his side and finally stomped back into the house myself. I refused to let him sleep in my bed.
Things got worse after that, too. Veronica kept trying to corner me and explain the kiss I had witnessed. I hadn’t wanted to hear the explanation from Alesondro. I sure didn’t want to hear it from her!
“You’re just being a baby, Natasha,” Vero finally said to me. “Stop being so selfish!”
“Yes, selfish. You can’t keep Alesondro to yourself. He’s the pack leader!”
“I don’t care. If he wants to be my boyfriend then he can’t kiss other girls!”
“You are such a baby!”
At that point my temper just snapped. I called her a bitch…and not in the female dog sort of way. Then I slapped her.
That didn’t go over pretty well. Of course she kicked my ass. I’m not a werewolf. At least she didn’t change when she started the fight. She stayed human. I got in a few good hair pulls, but she definitely won.
Later I came into the kitchen to find her talking to Alesondro. She made it sound like the fight was all my fault.
“She slapped me,” Vero was saying. “What else could I do?”
“If you weren’t a werewolf,” I said, “I would have done worse than slap you! I would have kicked your ass.”
Vero growled at me, but Alesondro shh’d her. “Natasha, you can’t pick fights with my pack. It will cause problems for me.”
“I don’t care! If you really loved me, this wouldn’t even be an issue. She hit me. She knew I couldn’t fight her, but she fought with me anyway.”
“Werewolves can’t help that. It’s in our nature.”
“Stop taking her side!” I practically screamed.
“But you’re being unreasonable,” Alesondro said. It was the final straw.
“I’m being unreasonable? Me? If I’m so unreasonable, then maybe this relationship is over. Done.”
“But I love you…”
“Oh bull shit! Don’t you even say that! You don’t love me and I definitely don’t love you!”
I pushed past Veronica, giving her a backhand slap as I left the kitchen. I practically ran up the stares and started piling all of my stuff in my bag.
As I left the house I saw Alesondro holding a wet rag up to Veronica’s nose. I hoped I had broken it.