Chapter 18: Changing Times
After Juan is done making his announcement, the Santos start to file out of the room slowly, in a wave
of murmurs and noises as they discuss what was said, and where we go from here. You can feel the
tension thickening, the uneasiness, and nervousness, as it sinks in that this is real and life as we know
it is about to change dramatically. Colton pulls me aside, tucking us out of the way of the door to let
people pass, and grabs a passing male who is very familiar to me.
“Matteo, take Alora to our room and wait for me there. Assemble the pack, I want to talk to you all. I
won’t be long; my father wants me.” He nods out towards the front of the room, where Juan’s still
concealed by moving people and I instantly feel sick with apprehensive.
Being left with someone and separated from Colton reminds me, that for all the things I am mad at him
about, I still feel secure when with him. He’s my safety net, and the only person in the world who cares
about me in any kind of way. His strength, his quiet confidence, and air of control, is the calm to my
nervous floundering and it only hit’s home, that I need his presence more than I want to admit.
“Dude, I don’t think that’s good idea. Carmen and Alora in the same room…. she will….”
“Are you questioning me?” Colton’s tone instantly changes, ha growling snarl in the undertones,
irritation fast to show his displeasure and that aggressive air kicking in as Matteo looks away
sheepishly. Knowing he overstepped the mark. Questioning of a command never goes down well with
alphas of any sort, especially not by one of his own sub pack and it shows me that Colton is way more
patient with me than even his closest.
“No, mi alfa, pido disculpas.” Matteo responds in fluent Spanish, lowering his head and displaying his
regret. Showing the demanded respect, obviously chastised as his leader is Colton, apologizing and
addressing him as alpha.
We have one major rule in our world. Never query your alpha, for any reason, and never disobey. I
forgot what that was like when living severed from any real pack and only having to follow basic rules in
the home. Being here reminds me how it used to be when my family was alive, and we all followed
Samuel Whyte, before his family was taken down and never returned.
It makes me rethink Colton’s refusal to defy his father and leaves me churning it over in my head, a
new angle on a frustrating situation. Reality sinking in, that just because I lived outside of the restraints
and rules of our social norm for a decade, doesn’t mean he has.
Colton and Matteo, they’re a sub pack, a smaller group divided from the main and lorded over by a
single dominant. Colton! This is how large packs like the Santos keep everything running smoothly.
They’re called Beta packs, or Subs, and much like the hierarchy of leadership, even the sub packs rank
in order of importance and command. Like smaller units in a bigger army, with ranking officers, and
Colton’s right up there in the top five. His father’s pack of beta second commanders, are number one.
The order is dependent on skill, experience, and how battle worn they are, and Colton’s sub pack were
of an age to defend us ten years ago. They all tasted real war on our lands. Even so young. It’s why
they train together every day and are some of our most capable soldiers when needs be. I should
never forget, that even though Colton is not yet the Santo Alpha, he is one in his own right, and in his
own sub pack, and I underestimate the importance of his responsibilities. He isn’t just some nineteen-
year-old high school jock with his eye on a future crown, he’s already a commander, already performing
his duty and caring for his pack.
“Go with him, he’ll keep you safe. He’s as close as a brother to me.” Colton leans in, pulling me to him
so he can talk softly, almost nose to nose, that gentler tone waving through me and breaking down my
defenses. That sweet look I now know is only reserved for me, and he reluctantly pushes me towards
Matteo until a hand lands on my shoulder. An unfamiliar touch and I flinch at the contact but try to hide
“The rest of the pack are not going to like this.” Matteo points it out, raising a brow at Colton, but is met
with a blank stare that I can tell was a move from verbal conversation to mind. Whatever Colton says,
Matteo looks away again, and gently taps me to nod towards the door that people are filing out of. He
flushes lightly, his face reddening high in his cheek bones and I guess he got a quiet dressing down
away from listening ears. To save face, Colton didn’t do it outright, showing he cares about his friend,
even if he was pissed at his questioning his authority.
I Won’t be long. Try and not engage with Carmen. His voice is like a last lingering stroke, giving me
tingles as I move to leave him. I nod at him, not anywhere close to feeling as confident as I pretend,
before turning on my heel, steeped in nervous energy, and let Matteo guide me with that single hand on
Matteo is as familiar a face in my memories as Colton as they were always together, like brothers, or
inseparable shadows. Having Colton’s memories show me that they’re best friends, but Matteo is also
one of his commanders, and he trusts him completely. He’s the one who teased him that day in the
lake, from the memory Colton showed me, and I guess he already knows that a long time ago Colton
knew who I was. That Colton harbored some sort of juvenile feelings. That even as children, the fates
were trying to draw me to him.
I walk with him now, side by side, a male as tall as Colton, and as broad. They share similarities and I
wonder if they’re maybe cousins, or blood tied in a close way because they do look alike. Same thick
straight brows, and black hair that’s a little ruggedly messy, like they have a natural curl, although
Colton’s is shorter so harder to tell. Same darkest brown molten eyes, tanned Latino skin tone, and
square jawline, although Matteo is not as clean shaven or groomed. His hair not as clipped, or
manicured, and his eyebrows not as angular, and tamed.
Matteo’s like the rougher, less kempt, version of Colton who just rolled out of bed and threw on the first
clothes to hand. He has a casual quality to him, less pulled together, and sharp. Colton takes pride in
his appearance, and his clothes, and it’s obvious to everyone he comes from wealth when you see him
on a normal day. He just oozes that effortless polish, expensive labels, and self-confidence. Matteo
seems less concerned in his worn faded jeans, and grey hoodie, that don’t look designer either.
“So, you’re Alora…. From the Whyte clan, right?” he nods as we dodge fast paced walkers and I’m not
oblivious to how many glance my way, with sneers, and weird looks, as we pass them going to their
rooms, or wherever they have to be. My presence is noted, and the vibes I’m picking up on tell me that
people know who I am, or that they know I’m responsible for the trashing of their pack house. I try and
ignore it, lowering my chin to avoid eye contact, and silently exhale to blow it all away.
Everyone leaving the room at once causes mayhem in this narrow corridor, and I can’t tell which way
we’re even moving as we’re crammed among so many, it’s like ants evacuating a collapsing den via the
only escape route. It’s claustrophobic.
“Yeah, I think we used to play in the same places as children.” I answer distractedly, as I avoid collision
with oncoming traffic, trying to be polite, but I’m too busy side-stepping large males pushing by, and
trying not to get trampled underfoot.
“We did. I remember you. You had a brother, Jasper, about my age.” The use of his name, from
someone else’s mouth, sucker punches me unexpectedly, and I have to bite my lip to stop the sudden
inhale from the slice of pain it inflicts. Even after all these years, I’ve never really fully mourned the loss
of them. I try never to think of them and push it down whenever one surfaces.
“I did. He didn’t come back from the wars.” It’s a fast audibly painful response, my voice wavering, as I
shake my head to expel the vision of him, so like my father in looks, and turn my eyes to the ground
instead to watch my steps. The comment about his age means Matteo is older than Colton by at least
five years, if not more, so it’s weird that Colton is the sub alpha and not Matteo. It gives me something
else to focus on and not the memory of a brother I will never see again.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to upset you. I guess time is not a healer, like they say.” He seems momentarily
uneasy and I smile his way, bringing my eyes back to his with a sympathetic shrug. It never is the right
time to have these kinds of awkward conversations.
“I’m not used to hearing anyone say his name. At the home it was forbidden to talk of our loved ones,
because they’re seen as shamed. They failed our people by dying.” I grind, tightening my limbs, as I
churn out the words I heard so many times. Matteo frowns, something dark in the depths of his eyes,
hinting at a reaction I don’t understand, and then it’s gone.
“This way.” Matteo changes topic and points to a corridor veering off to the right of where we are, taking
us out of the crush of people and into near silence of an empty passage. He stands for a moment
looking around and I can tell he’s mind linking, probably calling their pack to where we’re going. It takes
him a minute or so and then he turns his attention back to me. “The rest are on their way so we may as
well show you it before they get here.” He walks ahead, down the dark corridor and opens a door at the
very end with the use of a keypad. Pushing open a heavy solid cherry wood door and revealing an
already lit room inside. It has working lights, so I guess they started replacing bulbs down here first and
we walk in, letting the door swing shut behind us.
It’s like a large study from an old-world time, with huge leather armchairs and a massive wall hugging
fireplace off to one side. There’s one large walnut desk with a heavy dark green padded chair behind it,
facing out into the center. Matching dark green leather couches by two of the walls; bookcases lining
another and what looks like a mini bar in the gap left by the door. There’s a thick animal hide rug under
our feet, I think it might be a brown bear, or some huge rough haired animal, and absolutely no
windows in here at all.
“Every pack has a communal room for hanging out, bonding, and talking shop. Ours is obviously the
best because we’re lucky enough to have Juan Santo’s son as our Alpha. It’s a perk as we get favor.” I
can’t tell if he’s being serious, or sarcastic, and don’t pick up on any real malice in his tone. It’s an odd
thing to say if he isn’t trying to be an ass. He nods me towards a seat as he strolls to the fireplace,
presses a button, and it explodes into instant flames. I thought it looked real, but I guess it’s gas.
I sit close to it on one of the armchairs, not really cold, but watching flames has always brought me a
sense of calm and reminded me of another time and place when my mother would brush my hair by
ours. A time when I had no cares in the world, when I was secure and loved, nestling in the lap of my
family. I try not to dwell on it and stare into the depths, emptying my mind.
“Drink?” Matteo pulls my attention to him, now at the dark wood and glass bar and I shake my head.
The last thing I need is to dull my senses and get drunk with a guy, or pack, that I don’t know and have
every reason to treat me cruelly. I’m already nervous about them arriving and I can’t relax, even if he
does seem more tolerant of me than most of this pack.