big bad wolf
Rosita spent the next few weeks learning about the pack and keeping a close eye on her grandmother. She was glad that the pack was very lenient. Turns out, if it had been almost any other werewolf family she would not have been able to stay with Abuela so often. Her grandmother was getting better, but it was slow going, and there was still the chance that her surgery would have to be postponed. If it was, there was no telling whether Abuela would be willing to keep up the chemotherapy.
When she wasn’t with Abuela or at work, Rosita was most often at the pack ranch. She just couldn’t bring herself to comfort her mother while she mourned Raoul’s sudden disappearance. The man had been a monster, in more ways than one. Rosita had already heard about the bar gang bang through the grapevine. She’s screamed at her mother to press charges. No one could claim it was consensual considering how drunk she’d been. However, Gina wouldn’t hear of it. It was too embarrassing, she said. Rosita knew it was useless to argue. At least one of the men, if you could call him that, had been punished.
Rosita discovered that the ranch was a good place for privacy. Very few of the pack members were ever there at the same time. People just wandered in and out depending on their schedules, living their lives normally. There were a few exceptions, the most notable one being Jimmy.
Jimmy was the resident werewolf mechanic, handyman, and expert on werewolf culture. His knowledge didn’t come from the thick volumes in the ranch library, but from firsthand experience. At first Rosita gave Jimmy a wide berth. One of the other girls had cozied up to her in an effort to prove how nice wolves could be. In the long, boring, one sided dialogue of how everyone here was so nice the girl revealed that Jimmy was once a rogue.
“Most rogues are the reason werewolves have bad reputations in classic history, but they’re not all bad! Our Jimmy used to be a rogue, but he never hurt anyone! He just didn’t like his pack master, or the ones he met after he left. Lone wolves are rare, but they do exist! Most, like Jimmy, claim a pack, but don’t stick around. Our pack seems to have the most loners. Not sure why, ’cause our pack is the best!”
Rosita listened to the girl, the perky blond whose name was Jenny, but didn’t really open up. She still distrusted the whole pack system. It reminded her of a large and very controlling family. Everyone was always in her business, asking questions about her mother, work, Abuela, even what she’d eaten that day. They seemed genuinely interested, but it was still too intrusive for Rosita. She got rather angry when she realized that a few of the wolves were following her when she was out and about in town.
One day, when she was trying to escape the curiosity of the pack by staying on the ranch, the only place no one seemed to care what you did, she found herself wandering into the garage. She liked the collection of old and new vehicles that were made available to the pack. Some were true classics, as old as the 50′s, others were as new as the previous year. Alpha Aaren liked cars, and would buy the floor models when they became outdated. The man loved a good deal.
Rosita was admiring a ’68 Shelby GT 500KR with a white leather top. It was in mint condition, with what looked like original parts. She had already looked twice for the keys to this baby, but so far she hadn’t found them.
“That’s Aaren’s mate’s car, you won’t find the keys anywhere.”
Rosita whirled around to face Jimmy’s somber face. Besides being a former rogue, the man never seemed to smile, and Rosita felt the hairs on the back of her neck prickle. Sensing her unease, Jimmy averted his eyes and walked with one muscular shoulder facing her until he was on the opposite side of the car. He was doing his best to seem unthreatening, but she didn’t care. The low rumble of a growl in her throat just refused to back down.
“Ford only made 21 with a white convertible top.”
Rosita blinked. She wasn’t sure if he was trying to start a conversation or if he always threw out random facts to strangers. It did explain why she couldn’t find the keys, though. Besides belonging to Donovan it was obviously a collectable and worth a lot of money.
“Aaren and Donovan like cars, but they collect a lot of other things too. Most of what you see in the ranch belongs to them. Except in the bedrooms, of course.”
Rosita snorted. She’d noticed there were a lot of odd knickknacks in the house. Mixed with the abundance of leather furniture and the country cottage style décor, it was an interesting, if eclectic combination.
“Yes, Aaren Moon Inc. seems to be doing pretty well for itself.”
Jimmy finally made eye contact. His stunning green eyes were very unnerving. He caught her gaze and she felt instantly connected to him, unable to look away or move as he slowly closed the distance between them.
“Oh yes, the pack has become quite wealthy. One of the most wealthy on the east coast, and that’s saying a lot. But I get the feeling you’re not happy about that for some reason?”
Rosita was in her last few weeks of high school. Her grades were excellent, and in spite of the stress of the last week, she was certain to pass. A few of her teachers noticed that things weren’t right with her, and when she explained her grandmother’s condition, they quickly made exceptions for the previously exceptional student. All Rosita really needed to do now was show up and not flunk her finals and she’d graduate with a 3.8 or better. If she could ace the finals, a 4.0 was in her future.
Because of Gina’s dubious work history, Rosita had been working for a local coffee shop for three years now. She used the money to supplement her mother’s unreliable paychecks and to save money for a car to use when she went to college. If she went. After going back to work and getting her under the table wages Rosita was approached by Jacob, the beta wolf who had explained the rules before. Apparently he’d forgotten a few, not that she was surprised. All wolves donated 10% to the pack. She wasn’t a wolf, but for the time being, she was pack, and expected to do the same.
“I was told the pack helped one another, but I find out they only do it for 10%. When they told me the pack was a family, I didn’t realize it was the mob kind of family.”
Jimmy started coughing to cover up a violent fit of laughter. Rosita didn’t think it was funny at all.
“I don’t plan on staying here, I don’t want to invest in this place! I need that money for college, and Aaren has no right to take it!”
Jimmy held out one hand while he tried to get control of himself.
“The mob… Aaren would love that… Sweetheart, you don’t understand…”
“Don’t call me sweetheart.”
“Ok. My apologies. Rosita, the truth is, most packs take 100% and then require that you get the Alpha’s permission for every dollar spent thereafter. This is one of the most lenient packs in the country. Aaren only asks for the 10% to cover the cost of the ranch, and would probably give you a pass if you asked. Some of our members willingly give far more than 10%. Aaren Moon Inc. is a tax shelter for most of them, honestly. They give loans and grants to members with less income and invest heavily in Aaren’s stock. The whole operation probably earns $2 million a year, and is available to any of the 30 odd pack members if they really need it. Aaren is the only pack master I’ve met who doesn’t use money to manipulate and indenture his wolves.”
Rosita was curious, in spite of her misgivings of this man.
“And how do you know so much about other packs? From when you were a rogue?”
Jimmy ignored her hard look.
“Yes. I left my first pack when the Alpha demanded that I take a mate. I had no intentions of breeding little werewolves, and even if she used protection, there wasn’t a bitch there that I was interested in spending more than a night with.”
Rosita bristled at his use of language until she realized he probably meant bitch as in the literal female dog. Wolf sociology was still beyond her.
“What, you’re such a stud, he wanted you to reproduce?”
“No, but one of his nieces had taken a liking to me. I always told her ‘no’ during the Moon Festivals, and saying ‘no’ to a bitch in heat is not an easy thing.”
Rosita pondered his wording for a minute, but couldn’t help herself. It was something she’d thought about when the pack had started its orgy.
“Do… do werewolves go into heat?”
“Uh… yeah. It’s a little scary, too.”
Rosita thought about the bitch dog one of mother’s boyfriends had. She’d bled all over the apartment and then started humping everything in sight. Rosita had commented on how this was a perfect example of why to get a pet spayed. He’d shrugged and enlightened her that it only happened once every 4-6 months.
“So, does that mean I’ll go into heat twice a year?”
Rosita kind of liked that idea. Much better than a monthly period.
“Maybe… but probably not.”
“What do you mean, ‘maybe?’”
“Well, our women still ovulate once a moon. In fact, all of our girls go into heat during the Moon Festival. It’s the reason the Alpha requires the whole pack to be here. Female werewolves in heat need to choose mates beforehand otherwise things can get a little crazy when their urges hit. Males get into fights over the females and the females fight off the winners ’cause they won’t let a macho asshole dominate them. It doesn’t happen often, but werewolves have a higher rate of death around females in heat.”
“What about females who don’t want to breed?”
This was an important question. Rosita wasn’t about to be forced into breeding wolf-kittens.
“That’s another important factor. Werewolves can’t really use condoms and hormones are less effective. Since we don’t get STDs or TSS, most of the girls slip in a sponge for the week of the Moon Festival. Bitches intent on breeding need to make their intentions known to the pack by the beginning of the festival so no one is caught unawares.”
“But what if the girl doesn’t want to have sex at all?”
Rosita watched Jimmy carefully. His thin lips pressed hard together, and she could see the light stubble on his face bristle as he clenched his jaw in preparation. It had to be bad news.
“Well… there isn’t any rule that says you have to, but honestly, when a werewolf goes into heat, it’s almost impossible to deny.”
Rosita rolled her eyes and crossed her arms across her knit poncho.
“So when it’s my turn I’ll become a lust crazed tigress, is that what you’re saying?”
Jimmy licked his lips in a rather disconcerting way, and she knew he was suppressing a smile. He took several deep breaths before answering.
“We’ve tried before, to honor a female’s wishes to simply remain abstinent. We found that it could be done if she locks herself in the basement for the duration of estrus. She can’t just get away from male werewolves, though, ’cause many humans respond to the pheromones and once she’s producing them, few have the will to ‘just say no.’”
Rosita snorted derisively.
“I did see a dike fend off all males once, but she nearly raped one of the other bitches. Her self control slipped, and afterwards she always spent the moons with one of her male friends. She hated it, but it was better than the alternative.”
“So what happens if I don’t want to participate in the Moon Festival?”
Jimmy shoved his hands into his jeans pockets. It was hard to tell how old he was, most werewolves aged slowly. Beside that, he had rugged, boyish features that made him look younger than he probably was. His reddish brown hair wasn’t styled, unless you counted the thick locks that kept falling across his deep green eyes. His clothes weren’t much help either. The understated dark tee shirt, jeans and trainers were the standard uniform for males 8 to 40. His anxiety made him seem quite young, and she almost felt bad for him.
“Aaren won’t make you participate in the sex, but since it’s your first change, you’re going to need someone to guide the shift and help you deal with the experience. You need to realize that the person who helps you, you are going to be attracted to him.”
“So let a girl help me.”
“The girls in our pack, they’ve all got partners, either as mates or as Festival friends.”
Festival friends. Rosita almost choked on her laughter. Jimmy winked and continued.
“They will be dealing with their own urges. The males who don’t have partners will be agitated as well, but not as badly as the females. And once the mating is over, the girls will all be knotted to their men for a while, so they can’t be much help.”
Rosita still didn’t understand.
“What do you mean, knotted? Is this some weird werewolf ritual where you guys tie each other up?”
Rosita watched Jimmy’s green eyes darken. Obviously the idea of tying her up interested him. He cleared his throat before answering.
“Not quite. Do you know what happens when dogs mate?”
Rosita shook her head.
“Well, basically, the base of the male penis swells into a ‘knot’ and gets stuck in the female. It’s painful to remove, so werewolves don’t, usually, after mating.”
Rosita thought about this a minute, and the confused frown on her face reminded Jimmy about her unsavory first experience with werewolves.
“It only happens in response to female werewolf hormones. Otherwise we’re just like humans.”
Rosita nodded, then stared uncomfortably at her feet. She didn’t like that he was able to figure out her train of thought so easily. None of the werewolves actually asked her about her rape, but the subject was a sticking spot, since they all wanted her to get over it and be part of the pack. Fucking one of the pack members would be a sure way to show she was over her fears, but honestly, she didn’t care. She was still afraid, and she had no intentions of knotting with a stranger.
Rosita hadn’t noticed that Jimmy was slowly closing the distance between them. When he spoke again, she nearly jumped. He was only a few feet away, and the car was no longer between them.
“Hey, I’m not pairing with anyone this year, and I’ve had more opportunity for developing self control than the others. I’ll walk you through the change at the Moon Festival, and I promise, no matter how much you beg me, I won’t have sex with you.”
The easygoing smile and casual stance he’d assumed were obviously calculated to earn her trust. Rosita really wanted to trust someone. It was too soon though.
“I’ll think about it.”
And then he was gone. He just turned around and walked out, leaving her with her thoughts and the garage full of cars. Rosita knew she needed more advice about this, but honestly, she didn’t know where to go. Her grandmother was ill, and didn’t need the added stress. Besides, Rosita knew full well what Abuela’s views on premarital sex were. She was a Catholic, and sex for anything besides pro-creation was simply forbidden. It was one of the reasons Rosita still felt shame over her rape.
She’d easily accepted that there wasn’t anything she could have done to stop it. It wasn’t her fault. She hadn’t dressed provocatively or suggested anything other than disinterest in her mother’s boyfriend. Raoul had been a monster, plain and simple. He could have killed her and Abuela easily. Fighting back wouldn’t have helped at all, and instead she might have come out with bites and bruises like her grandmother did.
Rosita had easily understood that she was the victim. However, her reaction to the wolf, that she could not forgive.
Rosita still found herself aroused at the memories of the rape. The arousal was at war with her disgust, anger and fear, but it was there, none the less. Thankfully, instead of reliving it, her mind easily transitioned into the loving experience with Hunter. That had, after all, been her intentions for inviting him to lay with her. Now that he left, however, it brought heartache along with the pleasure.
Rosita slumped down onto the concrete and leaned against the Shelby’s fender. She spent a few moments trying to hold back the flood of tears, but it was useless. Quietly, she sobbed, arms folded on her knees. She lost track of time and might have even fallen asleep. She started when the sound of boots rang through the garage.
Jumping to her feet, Rosita wiped her face and nose quickly, but not quick enough. Donovan, keys in hand, was staring at her with a pitying expression. Rosita didn’t want to be pitied. She wanted them to see her as strong, independent, and free. Maybe then they’d leave her alone.
She stomped out of the garage and then back into the ranch. No one was in the main living area, so she plopped on the couch and grabbed a book someone had left on the table. It took her reading the cover twice to realize it was in French. She couldn’t read French. Angrily she threw the book across the room, the spine making a satisfying thud against the wall.
“Not a fan of Alexandre Dumas?”
Rosita simmered and didn’t look at the Alpha. Aaren ignored her bad-manners and sat on the sofa next to her. Rosita put a tight rein on her urge to growl at the pack master, and for once, succeeded.
“I heard from Jimmy that Jacob didn’t do a very good job explaining pack life to you.”
Rosita didn’t respond, didn’t move a muscle. She refused to even look at Aaren. He sighed deeply.
“Jimmy tells me he’s offered to assist you with your first change. I know you have a prejudice against rogues, and perhaps still towards all werewolves, but I think you’d be wise to consider accepting him.”
Her anger was starting to simmer down into helplessness. She was afraid she was going to cry again. This wasn’t how the world was supposed to work. You were supposed to be able to make your own choices in life, not have miserable options all laid out for you, and you could choose the least offensive one. Rosita closed her eyes, mindful of the tears leaking out of the corners, but not wanting to draw attention to them by wiping her face.
“It’s going to be okay, Rosita. It’s not as bad as all that. Please don’t cry.”
So much for not drawing attention. Aaren sounded almost as helpless as she felt. It was obvious that the man wasn’t used to dealing with crying females. Rosita took several deep breaths before she posed her fears directly.
“Aaren, I’m not going to be some bitch to breed, and I’m not going to whore myself out because of some primal mating urge. I’m not going to participate in the Moon Festival.”
Rosita’s challenging stare met little resistance in Aaren’s gaze. It surprised her. He even had the hint of a smile on his lips.
“Is that all you’re worried about? No one here would rape you, Rosita, I’d rip their lungs out. I promised to keep you safe until you know how to control yourself. I will do that, I promise. And besides, you’re a weretigress, things may be different with you.”
“So if you’re not going to let anyone else rape me, then why do I need an escort to the Moon Festival?”
Aaren shifted uncomfortably before replying.
“Changing in a basement or locked room would be very, very dangerous. Your tiger needs to run, to hunt, to experience the moon. She will hurt herself if she can’t. You don’t really realize how the animal inside you works yet. You don’t just change form, you change minds, in a way. It is still you, but you are freed from the usual human inhibitions and social rules. Good people are still good wolves, but good wolves are still rather… hedonistic. We don’t think much past the moment. It takes years to bring the animal and human perspectives into balance. So the first change needs to be as free as possible, so you can know just what you’re dealing with. And it needs to be guided by someone who will know if your wolf is doing something your human will regret later.”
“You mean like fucking a complete stranger?”