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    kbois
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.

Spirit Wolves - 4. Chapter 4

Okay, time for a twist.

Going to totally switch gears.

Ben tapped his fingers on the steering wheel, coaxing the machine along, “C’mon Sweetheart, just a little bit further. I know you can make it.”

The little Ford Escort was almost as old as he was, in another two years she’d be eligible for antique plates if she made it that long. The old car’s transmission had been babied as much as possible. Ben took care of the car, knowing that he really couldn’t afford to replace it. He did as much of the work on it himself as he could. He’d taken a few automotive repair classes at the vocational high school that he went to. The little Ford had been donated to the school by its last owner and the class instructor held a lottery for any of the kids who wanted the car after repairs had been made, with the stipulation that whoever won the lottery would have to pay for the parts. Only three people, including himself, showed any interest in the vehicle. Ben had won and the little car became his sole project for the majority of his junior year. Under the tutelage of his high school teacher, the engine was overhauled and she was made road-worthy, which had also garnered him an ‘A’ in the class.

During school, Ben had a part time job at a local hardware store and he had saved his money wisely, so when the time came that the car was ready, so was he. He paid for the insurance upfront, as well as the title transfer and registration. He was proud of his accomplishments while his parents were indifferent.

Ben’s parents were both financial investors and didn’t have time for Ben. They weren’t abusive or neglectful, they just didn’t pay attention to him. He had several nannies when he was young. His parents were quite well off and made sure that he was clothed and fed. They had provided him with ‘stuff’ growing up, but attention to their only son was beyond their comprehension. Even though Ben could have had anything he wanted with a mere request, he had always felt so distanced from his parents that he had made the decision to be independent from them at a young age, including financially.

He attended a private boarding school through eighth grade and hated it. Too many spoiled rich kids with egos way too big for their heads. He told his parents that he wanted to enroll in the local high school and they had agreed without any fuss. If anything, they were happy to save a big chunk of change.The kids at public school were much more down to earth, he enjoyed the four years he spent there, making friends he still kept in touch with. He’d been working since he was fifteen years old and was proud that he didn’t need to rely on anyone else. He outgrew the need for a nanny, and because his parents were out of town on business so often, he rarely saw them. There was a part-time housekeeper who kept the kitchen stocked and the house clean. He suspected that he had not been a planned addition to the family.

Ben grew into an independent young man. His body filled out nicely, leaving him just shy of six feet. He had dark blond or sandy brown hair, depending on how much he was out in the sun. Most people might call it dirty blond. His green eyes complemented a handsome face. When Ben graduated from high school, his parents were both overseas on a business trip.They weren’t even aware that their only child had reached such a huge milestone. Ben had long since grown comfortable with being independent, so after walking across the stage and getting that little piece of paper that said he graduated, he shot his parents a text letting them know that he was going on a road trip for graduation. It was only after that text that his father acknowledged the occasion with a brief ‘Congratulations’ and advised him that he would have their accountant transfer money into his bank account in the sum of ten-thousand dollars. Even though he didn’t rely on them financially he wasn’t about to look a gift horse in the mouth. That money lasted nearly two years.

Ben packed a gym bag with some clothes and toiletries and stopped at a sporting goods store for a tent and camping supplies. He locked up the house and left. He never looked back and it had been six years since he had seen the house he grew up in or his parents.

He occasionally texted his parents. Sometimes he called. They usually sent a short reply in return and, on his birthday and Christmas, a small deposit was made into his account. He knew that it was their accountant who took care of that task. His parents weren’t bad people, just completely clueless when it came to parenting.

Ben traveled across the U.S. and Canada for six years. Whenever his funds got low he would stop somewhere and get a job long enough to build up his bank account. He was frugal, normally staying at a boarding house, wherever he landed. He only stayed six to eight months, just long enough to save enough money to keep him going. Most of the time when he was traveling he would end up at a campground, saving hotels or motels for when it was absolutely necessary. He had spent plenty of nights sleeping in the little car that had served him well when he couldn’t find a place to pitch his tent. He met a lot of interesting people and saw so many beautiful sights. He discovered that people in general were OK. There were a lot of idiots out there, but there were plenty of nice people too.

He liked to stay on the move. Now, however, it looked like he would need to stop somewhere again. He had known for a few weeks that his little car would need some major repairs, he was trying to prolong the inevitable. He passed a sign that indicated the next town, Silverton, was a few miles up the road. He glanced at the warning light on the dash and hoped he would make it. The car lurched sporadically whenever the transmission slipped.

By some miracle he saw a service station up a couple of blocks once he pulled off the highway. He had been traveling through Montana, and the stretches between towns were often quite long. He coaxed his car a little further to a parking spot near one the bays. The car gave one more shudder before he shut off the engine.

He got out, stretched his back, and looked around. The service station was old, but well maintained. He could see someone’s legs on the other side of a large truck that was up on the lift. The legs moved toward him and they were attached to a tall, lanky redheaded man who was wiping his hands on a rag as he came around the back of a truck.

The man saw Ben and smiled. The only indication that Ben gave upon seeing what the man really was, was a slight narrowing of his pupils. Ben had been born with the ability to recognize supernatural beings. The man standing before him was a wolf shifter. Ben learned early on to school his reactions. It had scared his nannies and his parents whenever he spoke of it when he was little. His parents had even been concerned enough to send him to a therapist. It wouldn’t be socially acceptable to have a crazy son after all. His therapist came to the conclusion that he had a very active imagination, which placated his parents. Having an imaginative son, they could deal with, One with mental health issues? Not so much.

Ben stretched out his hand to grasp the shifter’s when it was offered.

“Hi there, I’m Rowan. How can I help you?”

Ben smiled inwardly, knowing the name Rowan meant red-hair. The man’s wolf was indeed a reddish brown color, sort of like an Irish Setter.

“My name is Ben. I think my little Ford over there needs a new transmission. I’ve fixed and patched as much as I could, but it needs a lot more.”

“Let’s go take a look.”

Ben gave him the keys and Rowan got in and started the car back up. He drove it to the empty bay and the car jerked as the transmission acted up again. Rowan got the car onto the lift supports and kept it running. He popped the hood and Ben came over to watch as he poked around the engine and connected it to the diagnostic computer, letting it run for a few minutes. Because of the car’s age Ben was afraid that this latest ailment would be terminal. Rowan shut off the engine and then pushed the button that operated the lift.

He looked over the underside of the car thoroughly. After a complete inspection, he turned to Ben, “I think you’re right. The transmission is shot. The rest of the car looks in decent shape though. I can tell you’ve taken good care of it. Now the question is, do you want to get it fixed or do you want to scrap the car? It’s over twenty years old and has close to two-hundred and fifty thousand miles on it. It’s your call. If I can find a rebuilt transmission you’ll be looking at somewhere around three grand.”

Ben knew it was going to be expensive. He had nearly five thousand in his account, but it looked like he’d be staying here for a few months while he worked to replace the money.

Needing time to think it over, he asked Rowan, “Is there somewhere I can get something to eat around here? I need to think about what will be better for me financially. I hate to get rid of the car. It has a lot of sentimental value. I’ve had her since I was sixteen.”

“There’s a diner around the corner. Tell Sandi I sent you over and she’ll take good care of you.”

“Thanks.”

He headed off in the direction that Rowan pointed and a few minutes later found the diner right where he said it would be.

Ben stepped inside and instantly became aware of several things. First, the smell of burgers hit him and he realized how hungry he was. Second, the diner was about three-quarters full, meaning there were about twenty-five people there. Every single one of them was a wolf shifter. It seemed as though Ben had stumbled into a town full of them.

Years of experience allowed him to mask his surprise. He had never encountered so many shifters in one spot before.

A tall blonde in her early thirties greeted him as he stood there taking everything in. “Hi there! Just have a seat anywhere. I’ll be with you in a minute.”

Ben nodded and made his way to a booth toward the back and sat so that he could observe most of the restaurant. Shortly after he sat, the blonde came over smiling, “I’m Sandi, would you like something to drink?”she asked as she placed a menu on the table.

Ben ordered a lemonade and thanked her for the menu. She told him to take his time before turning away to go get his drink.

Ben glanced around again. It was still hard to believe that the restaurant was full of shifters.

Sandi came back and slid the drink in front of him. “So what brings you around these parts, young man?”

Ben couldn’t detect anything other than polite curiosity in her question so he answered, “I’m having car issues and Rowan sent me over. I need to think about what to do. My car needs an expensive repair, and I’m not sure if it’s worth it or if I should just look for another used car. Plus I was hungry, and I think better when my stomach isn’t growling.”

“That holds true for all of us. Do you know what you want, or do you need a few minutes?” Sandi chuckled.

“I’ll have the double cheeseburger with bacon, hold the lettuce and tomato. Can you add blue cheese and lots of grilled onions to that as well?” he asked, hopefully.

Sandi nodded. “How would you like it cooked and what side would you like?”

“Medium and fries please,” Ben said, handing her back the menu.

Sandi took it and let him know that the food would be up shortly. He watched as she hustled from table to table. It seemed like she was the only waitress working. He could see that there were two men working the grill and they were cooking non-stop. They were shifters too.

It wasn’t long before Sandi came back with his food. As soon as it was set in front of him his stomach growled loudly. She laughed and told him, “You’d better take care of that before you start your thinking, otherwise you might overload your brain cells!”

Ben smiled as he picked up the burger. The first bite was like heaven. The burger was juicy and cooked to perfection. He wasn’t even halfway done when the bell over the door jingled and a tall, dark-haired man in a uniform entered the diner. His eyes scanned the room and even though they didn’t stop at Ben, Ben knew that the man was aware of him. This was an Alpha. His very existence exuded an air of authority. His uniform was that of a State Trooper and Ben automatically knew that he was high up in the hierarchy.

Ben continued to eat, keeping watch as nonchalantly as possible. The trooper walked up to the long counter and took a seat at the end, closest to where Ben was.

Sandi greeted the man warmly. "Caleb! It's about time you took a break. You're going to run yourself ragged. When do you expect the boys to return?"

The man Sandi referred to as Caleb set his hat on the seat next to him and replied, "Probably not for another couple of weeks."

Sandi’s forehead furrowed. "Is everything OK? They've already been gone a month. You kidnapped my best line cook you know. Denny is good, but he can't cover the grill all day, seven days a week. Plus I've got Mindy out on leave with her new little one."

Ben listened as Caleb answered wearily, "It can't be helped Sandi, they made a commitment and they have to see it through." Changing the subject Caleb nodded in Ben's direction, not saying a word. Ben didn't miss the almost imperceptible nod Sandi gave Caleb.

Caleb ordered a roast beef sandwich and coffee then turned so he could see the whole room. He looked at Ben, grabbed his coffee cup and made his way through the room, greeting everyone by name. Just an Alpha checking on his pack.

When Caleb got to Ben's table he stopped and introduced himself. Ben wasn't afraid even though the image of the man's wolf which was superimposed over him was rather intimidating. The beast was much larger than a normal wolf, his coloring was a beautiful mix of dark charcoal gray, and lighter gray with a little bit of brown and white mixed in.

"Hello there. I haven't seen you here before. We don't get a lot of people coming through here, we're kinda off the beaten path. I'm Caleb Micco. How's your meal?"

Ben could read between the lines better than most and he could only detect curiosity coming from the Alpha. He swallowed the fry that he had been chewing on and wiped his mouth before answering, "The food is very good. I’m Ben Marrock, and I had some car trouble. I need to figure out whether I should fix my car or replace it." Ben had a gut feeling that Rowan had given a heads up to the Alpha that a stranger was in town.

Caleb nodded and seeing that Sandi had just put his meal down on the counter he said, "Just let me know if I can help in any way. I’d hate to see anybody stranded."

Ben smiled and thanked him. Knowing he needed more cash no matter what he decided, he figured he would bite the bullet and see what he could find for work and a place to crash. He didn't relish staying in a town full of shifters, but he figured if he kept his head low and his mouth shut it might work.

After finishing up his meal, he got up and took the check up to the register to pay. As Sandi was cashing him out he asked "I couldn't help but overhear that you're shorthanded. Any chance I could get some work for a few weeks? I have enough money to repair my car, but not much else."

"Have you worked in a restaurant before?"

"Yes Ma'am," Ben replied. "I've bussed, cooked and waited tables."

Sandi looked as if she was going to hug him. "Son, when can you start?"

Ben snickered at her eagerness, "Is tomorrow soon enough?"

Sandi nodded. "I won't throw you to the wolves and make you work the breakfast and lunch rush, so how about two o'clock? It'll be quiet enough that I can show you the ropes and we can figure out a schedule then too."

"Is there a boarding house around here? If not, is there somewhere I can pitch a tent for a while?" he asked once they were finished talking about pay and how tips were split.

Sandi thought for a moment and then looked over at Caleb and asked him, “Do you think old Silas might be willing to let him stay in the loft?”

Caleb, who had obviously heard the whole exchange, nodded his head and turned to Ben. “There’s an older gentleman who needs somebody to help out around his home. He can mostly take care of himself, but needs a little looking out for. Sandi prepares several meals for him that he can just heat up. My nephew usually stops there every morning and evening to make sure he's OK, but he’s out of town for another few weeks. Would you be willing to check in on him every day, help out if he needs anything? In exchange, you can stay in the loft above his garage. It's set up as a small studio. Not much, just a bed, couch, a kitchenette and a small bathroom. Should be alright for a few weeks."

"Really? I should pay him something for rent though," Ben offered.

Caleb shook his head. "Old Silas is kinda set in his ways. If you're checking up on him and helping out with whatever he needs done, then he’ll feel obligated to reciprocate. Allowing you to use the loft would work out well for him."

Ben had a feeling that he was being played, but he really needed the money. He had never relied on anyone other than himself and having a free place to stay was just icing on the cake. Mulling it over in his mind he gave it a moment before giving in.

"Thank you, it will really help me out a lot. I promise I won't give you any trouble," Ben said as he offered his hand.

Caleb nodded as he shook with Ben and then said, “”Why don't you get whatever you need from your car and I'll take you over to Silas's house and introduce you. He's not too far from here, you'll be able to walk to the diner until Rowan gets your car fixed.”

Ben thanked Sandi once again and told Caleb that he would meet him over at the garage. He wasn’t uneasy at the thought of staying in a town full of shifters, just wary. He would do exactly what he said, stay out of trouble. Even though he planned on keeping his head down and his mouth shut, he was still going to keep his eyes and ears wide open.

Once he got back to the garage he advised Rowan that he could go ahead and fix the car. Rowan said he would look around for a rebuilt transmission. There was a salvage yard about forty miles away and he said he had always had good luck there. If not he would go online and see what he could find.

Rowan greeted Caleb when he saw him pull his State Police car into the lot. Ben told Rowan that he was going to work at the diner for a while to bulk up his savings after paying for the repairs and that Caleb was going to introduce him to Silas.

Rowan smiled at that.”That’s really good. Silas needs some company with Zev being gone.”

Caleb could tell Ben was confused, so he took pity on him. “Zev is the nephew I mentioned. He usually takes care of Silas but he’s away on a job right now with a few of his friends. They’re doing some research on a project they have in the works.”

Ben’s gut said there was more to the story, but he didn’t ask and Caleb didn’t offer any more information.

The two men said goodbye to Rowan and Ben got into the passenger seat of the patrol car. It wasn’t a long drive to Silas’ house. He lived about a mile from the diner. Ben figured it would be about a ten minute walk. There was a sidewalk that followed the street the whole way. Silas’s home was a three bedroom ranch house. There was a detached garage set back at the end of the driveway. The front yard was well kept and the backyard stretched out a good distance before ending at what looked like a ravine with woods on the other side.

Caleb parked the car and Ben got out, grabbing his bag that he had gotten out of his car. There was a small front porch with two Adirondack chairs and a two person swinging chair. Potted plants were hanging from the beams, the flowers soaking up the last of the nice weather before they would need to be taken in and protected from the cold. Caleb rapped twice on the solid oak front door, the sound booming from his knuckles.

They both heard a voice inside call out, “Come on in!”

Caleb turned the knob and the door swung inward. The living room was neat and tastefully furnished. There was a large fireplace on one end which gave the room a homey feeling. Caleb led him down the hall to the kitchen where Silas sat at the table reading a book next to a large bay window which let in the bright afternoon sunlight.

Ben took a moment to take in the surroundings. The kitchen was neat and clean. He figured that Silas didn’t utilize the stove too often if people brought him meals from the diner. He looked over at the old man at the table. He looked like he was most likely well into his eighties. Ben could see that he, too, was a wolf shifter. The old wolf was all sliver-gray, his muzzle was completely white. Ben knew that if Silas had a beard it would also be white.

Silas looked up at them and raised one eyebrow at the sight of Ben. “Well Caleb, who do we have here? It’s not like you to pick up strays.” Ben could see an amused twinkle in the old man’s eyes as he spoke.

“This is Ben Marrock. He’ll be in town while his car gets repaired. He’s going to work at the diner with Sandi to save up some money. I thought he could stay in the loft and help out while Zev is gone.

Wanting to put his best foot forward, Ben offered his hand and added, “It’s nice to meet you Sir. I promise you’ll hardly even know that I’m here. I usually keep to myself most of the time.”

The old man had a strong grip. He held Ben’s hand for a moment and Ben swore that his cloudy blue eyes became completely clear for a few seconds and in those seconds Ben felt like Silas was looking straight into his soul. The eyes clouded back up as quickly.

Silas told him “It’s nice to meet you as well. You can drop the ‘Sir, just Silas will do. I’ll be grateful for some company and a little help. I have a few little projects I need done and I was afraid that they’d have to wait until Zev and the boys got back. The loft needs a little cleaning and some fresh linens. No one has been up there in a while. Zev used it for a couple of years before he moved. It’s not much, but it should suit your needs just fine.”

Silas then turned to Caleb and told him, “I think young Ben here will fit in just fine.”

Caleb gave Silas a raised eyebrow. Ben was pretty sure shifters didn’t accept a human into their midst easily. A questioning look passed between them, and Silas held Caleb’s gaze for a few heartbeats before looking away. Ben found the exchange a bit strange.

“There are clean linens in the hall closet and cleaning supplies under the sink in the bathroom. If you could go grab them, I’ll show you the loft,” Caleb instructed.

Ben nodded and as he walked back down the hall he could hear Caleb say something in a low voice. He had a feeling that Silas was more than he let on, he’d just have to wait and see.

Ben found the linens and cleaning supplies and carried them back to the kitchen. He then followed Caleb out the back door and across to the garage. There were stairs on the outside that led up to the little studio. It was exactly as it had been described. On one end there was a small kitchenette with a refrigerator/freezer, a small countertop, sink and a few cupboards. A drop leaf table with two chairs was pushed up against the wall.

A coffee maker and microwave took up most of the counter space. In the middle of the room was a sofa, coffee table and a flat screen TV mounted on the wall. A divider wall about four feet high separated the living room area from the bedroom and bathroom area. The space held a queen bed, a night stand and a four drawer dresser. The corner had been walled off to create a small closet. It was perfect for his needs.

Ben looked over the divider wall and then turned to Caleb, “How long has it been since anyone lived here?”

“It’s been about six months since Zev moved out of here.”

Ben sniffed in some air and commented, “He must’ve left an air freshener behind, it still smells good in here, not all stuffy.”

Caleb’s head tilted almost imperceptibly and Ben saw his wolf’s ear twitch as well. Odd.

“Zev still checks up here periodically to make sure everything is OK and he probably aired it out last time he was here right before he left. Well, I’m sure I’ll see you at the diner tomorrow. I stop in on my rounds. If you need anything you can call me.” Caleb handed him a card. “I wrote my cell on the back.”

Ben nodded and thanked him. He watched the man as he let himself out and closed the door. He turned and surveyed the little studio and inhaled deeply. The faint scent of oranges and cloves tickled his nose. He also detected a hint of eucalyptus as well. He had always had a pretty good sense of smell and he was glad that this particular odor was pleasant.

Ben stopped musing and got to work. The place was clean, it just needed a quick dusting and the toilet needed some attention after not being used for a while. He made the bed then did a quick assessment of what the studio had and made a list of what he needed to get. Other than some food and toiletry items, the list was short. The place had towels and toilet paper in the small bathroom, the kitchen was stocked with a few dishes, glasses, utensils and some pots and pans.

There was a small grocery store a couple of blocks away so he decided to walk over and get a few things to tide him over. He knocked on Silas’s back door and asked him if he needed anything. Silas said no and thanked him. The trip to the store didn’t take long and once back at the little apartment Ben put away the groceries. He had pretty much stuck to the basics; milk, eggs, bread, peanut butter, cheese, frozen pizza, spicy sweet chili Doritos and beer.

Ben kicked off his shoes and took one of the beers and flopped on the couch. Once again he got a whiff of the sweet scent that still lingered from whatever air freshener the other guy had used. He channel surfed, stopping on one of the sports channels for a minute to appreciate the chiseled, sweaty bodies of a men’s beach volleyball game that was being broadcast. Ben wasn’t a volleyball fan, but he was a fan of the male form in all its Speedo clad glory.

He finally settled on one of the channels that was running a marathon of Marvel movies. He made it through two and a half movies, one pizza, three beers, and half of the bag of Doritos before calling it a night. Shutting the TV off, he put the chips away and rinsed out his bottles. He brushed his teeth and stripped down to his boxers before sliding into bed. As he drifted off the soothing aroma of oranges, cloves and eucalyptus surrounded him, lulling him into a peaceful slumber.

Yes, I know I left you hanging with Reilly and Sebastian. No, I don't feel guilty. You'll find out what happened in a couple of chapters.

Ben and the Montana pack? It'll all connect. I promise. You just have to bear with me.

Trust me. 😁

Copyright © 2021 kbois; All Rights Reserved.
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Stories posted in this category are works of fiction. Names, places, characters, events, and incidents are created by the authors' imaginations or are used fictitiously. Any resemblances to actual persons (living or dead), organizations, companies, events, or locales are entirely coincidental.
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