Chapter 26: Juan's Influence
“Has his father said anything more about Carmen?” I ask outright, afraid to have these conversations
with her as they always leave me feeling worse, but she’s the only person I have had to talk to, and I
know she’s on my side in this.
“Only that Colton needs to think of the future of his people. Honestly, I don’t even know why Juan is
rooting for Carmen, she wasn’t good enough a month ago, when he was constantly telling him he
needed to get serious a find a better mate. I don’t get it.” Meadow shrugs, rolling on her side to perch
herself up on one elbow, picking out some peeking daisies and twirls them between those talons she
“Wait, what? I thought Juan was invested in her as the best femme for Luna? He’s sure as hell fighting
her corner hard enough!” I blanche, my head spinning to her fully as rage ignites inside of me, pushing
“Nah, you got that all wrong. Juan has never warmed to her, he only seemed to take any kind of
interest in their relationship the second the fates brought you to Cole as his companera. Up until then,
he was one of the reasons Cole hadn’t yet settled and marked her. Always whispering in his ear that he
wasn’t ready, that he’s too young and had time, that he should sew some wild oats and live a little. He
only started with this marking shit when he knew Cole had his sights set on you.”
“So, his dislike of me contradicts even that. Screwing with Colton’s choice even before me. I swear, I
wish I knew why he was so against me. It can’t just be because of the home and losing my family.” I
exhale grabbing at the grass in exasperation and yanking out some more stems before watching them
blow from through my fingers on the wind. Set free, roots severed, to find their own path, wherever the
wind chose to blow them, and it stirs something in my head.
“The man is all about honor and power, it’s totally about you being one of the unwanted. It’s like a black
mark on his bloodline to accept the fates bonded one so unworthy to his only son. He’s obsessed. I
don’t think he’s all there, you know, since the wars, a little loco if you ask me.” She points at her temple
and rotates in a circle, leaning up further to gaze at me with crossed eyes, jesting that he’s crazy, but it
doesn’t bring any lightness to the conversation.
“I hate him. Even if he is mentally unwell. He’s the reason nothing in my life has been good for a long
time. He’s the one who called the packs to unite and go to war. He’s the reason my mother left me to
follow his call when they asked for warriors to protect our lands, even though he wasn’t our alpha. My
father tried to stop her… he knew they had little chance of returning. He wasn’t a warrior, none of my
people were. They should have stayed behind and protected the ones here, not left it to the children
like Colton to take on a man’s job.” There’s no point on dragging over the failings of the past, but I can’t
help it. The wars were a shambles for our people, even if we did end up coming out on top. The packs
had no tactics or pulling together until it was almost too late. So many who should never have gone left
our weakest vulnerable to be watched over by young wolves or newly turned. We were lucky to survive
attacks on our own homelands at all.
“Juan isn’t the man he used to be. Cole didn’t just lose his madre in those wars, his father came back a
changed man. The battles, they got inside his head. He wasn’t exactly soft before, but he only got
worse. I think it’s why Colton clings on so hard to winning his approval, clawing to stay connected to the
only parent he has left. His father’s single handedly raised him these past ten years, molded him into a
man. Cole’s loyal to a fault; he may seem tough sometimes, but he has his madre’s warm heart and
inability to see the worst in people. It’s his biggest strength, and yet, his worst flaw.” Meadow and I
stare intensely at one another, somber moods reflected, before I break contact and gaze off into the
clouds to try and find some peace. My head a mess with all of this, my heart aching badly like it’s done
for days now.
“Do you think Juan turned this way, because of the Luna too?” I so desperately want to understand why
someone who was once held high and respected among his own pack is now feared and questioned.
Why his own hide in corners to disapprove of his tactics, where the loyal would never question. That’s
not the sign of a healthy united pack. That’s the sign of a failing alpha, clinging onto his power. A
sinking ship and it doesn’t bode well for what Colton will inherit.
“I don’t know. All I know is, he’s not the uncle I knew as a girl and I don’t recognize him anymore. Cole
tries to pretend he’s still in there, maybe he really sees it, and looks for the best in him. I think he’s
scared of being cast away like his madre was and forgotten by all who love him if he pushes it. His
father likes to throw it out there that Colton has her weak genes, and it’s probably why he tries so hard
to do what Juan want of him, to prove him wrong.”
“Colton isn’t weak…. he’s confused. Even I can see that. What do you think Juan would do if he defied
him and marked me on the full moon? Do you think Juan would send him away, send us away?” I have
to know if there’s hope of changing his mind, that maybe Colton will still come through for me. Even if
his behavior is telling me that he’s already pushed all indecision aside and chosen a path to take. I
need to cling onto a tiny little ray that there’s still time to sway him.
“I didn’t, until Cole told me he believes his father would find a way to take you from him if he defied his
decision. Juan hasn’t said it outright, but he’s implied it. Cole’s worried you would be the one taken in
the night the way his madre was and kept from him with no way of finding you again. God knows he
hasn’t stopped trying to find her, but there’s no trace and those who know, they don’t speak about it.
He’s no idea which of the elders helped and the Shaman was no part. He’s also baffled as to where
she is and has been helping to trace her.”
I always wondered about the Shaman. Colton seems to trust him, and he doesn’t seem to spend his
days by Juan’s side as the elders do. In fact, the Shaman hides away until the turning ceremony each
month and rarely comes out.
“How can he still blindly love a man who can do that to him. She was his mother.” I despair at the
thought, sinking down into my crossed legs and perch my elbows on my knees so I can lean my chin
into my palms. Propping myself up while my body sags in deflation.
“Love, Chica, it does loco things to rational people and no matter how cold Juan is, Cole still loves him
as a son should. He’s all he has in terms of real family. His own grandmother has a weird aversion to
her grandson, and barely looks at him. She’s Juan’s mother and since birth, she never bonded to Cole
at all. It’s really weird.” Meadows sighs heavily too and I can taste her hopelessness in the air, seeping
into me. She frowns down at the grass and goes back to picking daisies, throwing them over her
shoulder listlessly in distraction.
“There really isn’t any hope for us, is there? Colton cutting me off, all of this, it’s to protect me … he’s
going to mark Carmen and that’s going to be the end of it. I can feel it in my bones. Whether he loves
me or not, his duty, his reason, his stubborn nature, all point at doing what’s expected, because he
thinks it will be a resolution that secures the pack’s future. And he cares about that more than about
us.” As much as I go around in circles in my head, I can’t see any other outcome.
As much as I want him to be strong for me, it’s not really about that. He is strong, he just cares too
much about the people he’s meant to care about. Alpha’s in his blood and putting the people first is part
of that leading nature of his type. As much as his gifts, his personality, his looks, and his DNA, he’s
programmed with this preset need to be bound to his duty for them.
He’s faced with all these paths and possibilities and even if he chooses me over all of them… he has a
fear his father will either take me from him, and I don’t doubt he would, or that I’ll be so damaged by life
as his Luna, that he’ll scar my mind in the process and lose me in other ways.
Seeing the way Juan’s been treating his own kind these past days has sickened me to my stomach,
and I need to start putting myself first. I need to face facts. Colton won’t endanger me with the
possibility his father will snatch me from him. I think he has more faith in my ability to be mentally
strong though, although it’s not that clear cut in his head, and I don’t doubt he isn’t aware of it.
He’ll do what his father wants because his hands are tied. Colton is fated to lead his people, he’s
known it since birth, he can’t run from that, and his father holds all the ropes where he’s concerned.
He’s bound, unable to free himself no matter what way he turns, and his future has never been his to
Colton is going to betray the bond, for the love of me. As crazy as that sounds. It’s clear in his behavior
and the way he’s again shut me off. He’s trying to make it easier because he knows what he has to do.
He knows that if we continued to stay close, he would keep fighting for us and not fully submit to what
his father wants.
I can’t keep being mad about the fact that our bond should be stronger, because I know this isn’t about
that. The bond is strong, it’s solid in a way, it’s what keeps pulling him to me, fighting his will power, and
messing with his head, repeatedly. It’s what’ll push him to mark her, in the hopes of breaking me free,
and keeping me safe from harm. His need to protect me.
The only problem is that once he does mark her, then I shouldn’t be here. I may still have a link that
endangers his life, but without his heart and eye on me the way it is now, Juan might make a move and
take me away anyway. I bet Colton hasn’t even factored that in at all, because he doesn’t want to see
his father’s that wolf. Juan may still make me disappear and go wherever Colton’s mother is, to be sure
his son doesn’t get tempted in any way. I’m the enemy in Juan’s eyes, nothing changes that, not even
I just wish I knew why he hated my kind with this force of passion. We were all the same once upon a
time. It’s not my fault my family died. It’s his.
“I wish I could argue, but the last few days, Cole being like this, I don’t think there is. I know him, Chica.
His mind is set. He thinks he’s protecting you.” Meadow sits up fully, hugging her own legs as tears
mist her eyes, and she reaches out and strokes my hair. Her desperation rising as she too accepts that
this is how it is. Neither of us has wanted to say it in the last few days, but the tides are changing, we
can feel it in the air. Our people are perched on a cliff and change is coming, whether we want it or not.
The threat thickening the atmosphere and we both know this is futile.
“I need to accept it, before then. Just not let Colton factor into my plans and focus on doing what’s right
for me.” My voice is strong, my words direct, but my heart wavers in blinding agony. A burning pain
spreading through every vein because I know what I must do.
Meadow begins to cry softly, pretty droplets rolling down her flawless skin, and I can tell she knows
where this is heading. Her silence is her agreement. Her sorrow is her blessing.
“You’ll always be my pack. No matter where you are. I love you like blood, you were meant to find me
mi hermana, and I’ll never stop caring about you.” Her statement tells me she does know, and she isn’t
going to argue about it. She’s a realist, and she knows my life won’t improve when Colton marks
Carmen. I’ll be this inconvenient issue stuck in the way of Carmen’s happy ever after, and we both
know she’s too spiteful to let that fly.
“I know what I have to do to ensure my own safety, and my own future. I love you too, Meds. I’m sorry.”
I guess deep down I’ve been churning this over for days, knowing it’s where I was heading, but until
now, I didn’t want to face it or say the words. I’ve pulled my head apart, and churned my mind in circles
over this, and it all kept coming to the same blank spot I didn’t want to fill in. You have to cut the roots
to let the grass fly free and find its own place to seed and grow.
Meadow’s soft tears turn to shuddering fat ones and she scrunches her body into a ball, cuddling
herself tighter to console, so we won’t draw the attention of the sub pack who are racing around the run
track nearby, chasing one another in high spirits for once.
“I wish there was another way, but I know what you’re saying is true. You were never welcomed, and
there’s a chance the marking will completely sever your bond and leave you as Juan’s prey. He won’t
leave loose ends to come back and mess with what he wants.”
It’s all the confirmation I need, as a plan clicks into place and she verbalizes the fear that’s been
gnawing at me. If Colton marking Carmen does sever my tie to him, Juan will kill me and burn my body
with the rest of my rejects. That’s how little I mean to him.
“No one will notice if I go, and Colton, maybe in a few days might question it, but the full moon will
swoop in and he’ll do what he has to.” His avoidance has meant he hasn’t linked in any way, doesn’t
come by my room, and avoids any interaction. Besides Meadow, he’s the only one who would care if I
don’t show up for training.
“Don’t make me say goodbye, don’t tell me when. I don’t think I can handle knowing, I would stop you. I
don’t want to keep that kind of secret from Cesar, he would know. I can’t lie to him.” Meadow sniffs from
within her body cocoon, desperation all around her as her heart bleeds. I understand, and I reach out
and touch her gently on her knee, my own eyes misting over, the pain just as bad, but I hold myself
together. Apprehension circling in my gut, but my focus is clear, and my mind made up.
“Sisters don’t say goodbye, they say laters, Chica. I have thing to figure out and plan, so I’m going
upstairs.’ I use Meadow’s pet name, our eyes meet as damp emotional smiles are passed, in that one
instance, I know a love that I’ve needed for the past eight years, a true friend, and it kills me that I only
found it to leave it behind. I’m going to miss those blue eyes, and that sassy spunk of my beautiful wild
I pull myself to my feet, head determined, and surprisingly free of tears, despite her breaking her heart
and crying floods as she watches me move. She stays immobile, like she’s stuck on the grass unable
to do anything else for now.
It hurts more than anything in the world, not too dissimilar a pain to having Colton reject me, but there’s
something inside of me pushing on and keeping me calm. I can’t sit here and wait for the inevitable and
then cry when it all goes how I expect it to. I need to take control of my own life and do what I always
intended. I had a plan! A chosen path before I imprinted.
To leave Radstone and the Santos behind, and make it on my own. If the fates wanted me to be mated
and stay, they wouldn’t have made me his. They knew this would happen, they know everything, and
yet they chose to throw dynamite in the fishing pond and sat back as chaos ensued.
“Tell him I don’t want to see him for a few days if he asks. That I need headspace. That I don’t want to
train. I’ll leave sometime within that, so you don’t know. Give me a couple of days after I don’t show for
meals at the mess before you tell him I’m gone. I have to make sure my scent is faded before he finds
I don’t want anyone tracking me, especially not him, and as our scent fades fast, I need at least twenty-
four hours to get far away from here before he finds out I’m gone.
Of course, I’m terrified. I mean, over the last days I’ve become marginally better at turning at will, my
fitness improving, but I haven’t perfected anything, haven’t gotten to grips with my gifts or how to use
them. I’m going out there with no experience, or skills to keep me safe, but I have to. It’s safer than
what I can feel is coming.
I grew up taking care of myself and knowing the basics to get by. My father taught me to camp, to hunt
in human form, and cook, even if I was a little kid I still remember. He taught me how to make fires, and
how to fish, it was his favorite pastime. Going rural as a human and living on the land, it was something
he just liked to do with jasper and me, daddy time with his children. I can’t have forgotten all of that.
Now I have the added bonus of being able to turn. I can hunt for food that way, eat as a wolf, nourish
my body with things a human couldn’t digest, like raw meat. I can sleep anywhere I find shelter,
because we don’t feel the cold, we don’t get sick from the elements, or die of exposure. I can keep
moving until I find somewhere to stop. I don’t mind being alone, I’ve felt that way for ten years, until
Colton. I’m not afraid to be isolated from others and doing it by myself.
If I have to venture into the human world to get a job or somewhere to settle, then I’m sure it can’t be
that hard. I’m hardly a vulnerable weak girl with no way to take care of herself. Even in human form, I
have my senses, my strength, and speed, and I have my inner wolf to protect me. I can heal when I get
sick or injured. I just need to find my courage and go.
Time will do nothing in this situation anymore, and as much as leaving him will kill me, it will also set
me free. It will set us both so. Him to focus on his responsibility and lead his people, and me, to hope
that our bond will fade or die in time, that I may never forget him, but that I may learn how to live
Despite what I said to Meadow about needing a couple of days, I don’t. I already made up my mind that
I leave at dusk, I just couldn’t tell her that. I need to move before dark, as no one wants to be out there
while our enemy can move around. I have a gap of time, to run far and find shelter, before the sun fully
sets and I’m done wasting time with this.