HEAT

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Chapter 16: Punishment & Loyalty

Leander

Now that I finished with Dagger, my anger partially stated, but not done. I made my way to Hycinth. She looked up at me with wide, shocked eyes.

Shocked. But not afraid of what had just happened.

That’s my strong little mouse, I thought with pride.

The Moon had gotten right. She had the fortitude necessary, the internal strength required to be an amazing Luna. Now, I was going to have to find a way to convince her to stay. I wouldn’t back out on her deal, but I sure as hell wasn’t going to stop fighting for her. I was just going to have to be clever about it, I thought with a smirk, several ideas already floating through my head.

But before I got to any of that, I still had business to attend. “Which Wolf told Dagger that he needed to stop because I would kill him for touching you before I got everything I wanted first?”

Hycinth looked around the room, studying the many wolves. Before she could identify one, Samuel made his way through the wolves to stand in front of them. I could smell the sharp stench of fear coming off of him. He stuttered, “I-It...was me.”

I glared at him, hot fury consuming me once more. For weeks, Hycinth had lived with a fear she never needed to have. Alpha dominance slowly leaked from my body. Not with the same force, I’d wielded before, but with sufficient concentration to drop him to his knees. The rest of the wolves scurried away, as far as they could, out of my range of influence.

Samuel’s neck inclined toward me in submission, as he trembled. I snarled, “Your words caused my mate pain. And because of that, I’m going to cut off your tongue.”

Samuel’s eyes went wide with horror, but he said nothing and didn’t try to move, just stayed in submission, accepting his fate. I stepped forward, knife in hand and grabbed the bottom of his jaw. “Open your mouth!”

He was shaking. A single tear fell from his eyes, but he complied, opening his mouth for me.

“Stick out your tongue.”

His tongue came out, presented to me without complaint or argument. I released his jaw and grasped his tongue in my free hand, extending it.

“Wait!” Hycinth spoke from behind me.

I turned to her in confusion, still holding Samuel’s tongue in my grip. Hycinth walked over to us. She placed a hand on my bicep and looked deeply into my eyes, saying softly, ”Please...wait...for just a minute. I want to talk to him.”

I released his tongue, curious what she had to say.

She looked down at the trembling Wolf. ”Why did you say what you did that day in the woods?”

Samuel’s voice was barely a whisper, “B-because any female Alpha is involved with is...untouchable.”

“I see.” She contemplated his response. “And when do they become touchable?”

“When he is no longer involved with them,” Samuel answered without hesitation.

I knew where she was going with her questioning now and was fascinated as I watched her interact with him. I also noticed the other wolves. They were looking at her intently, hanging on her every word. She asked softly, “What exactly does being involved with a female entail?”

Samuel hesitated, looking at her in confusion and then said simply, “Everything Alpha decides it entails.”

“So basically, everything he wants, then?” she rephrased his answer.

He just nodded, still looking confused.

“Have you ever been involved with a female after him?” she inquired.

Samuel’s cheeks flushed with color. He nodded his head.

“Tell me, how did you get involved with her?”

“I, uh...asked her out...and then, she, um, said yes.” he stumbled over his words.

“You asked her out...and she said yes,” Hycinth repeated.

He nodded in affirmation.

“Has Leander ever given you or any of the other men a female?”

Samuel’s eyes opened wider. “No...of course not. We have to earn our female’s favor,” he answered and then under his breath added, “It’s not easy.”

I wanted to smile. He was right. The shewolves certainly did make the lower-ranking men work for everything they got.

“Did you know I was his mate?” Hycinth continued.

“Ye-yes...” Samuel replied, fear etching into his tone again.

Hycinth tilted her head. “And yet, from your words, you still made the assumption there would be an end-date to my involvement with him, just like every other female. Is that common in this pack? Mates get involved and then just move on later?”

Oh shit. This line of questioning wasn’t going to end well for me. Damn her for being so intuitive.

“N-no, of course not. I, uh...” His glance cut to me, worried.

I steeled myself for his answer. “Speak freely, Wolf.”

“I...didn’t think he thought of you...like that, like a...mate,” he mumbled, almost flinching as he said the words.

Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

“Is that because he called me a whore three years ago? Is that why you didn’t think he looked at me as a mate?” Hycinth asked.

Samuel shook his head. “No, not really. It’s pretty common for Alpha to rant and curse when he’s pissed.”

I was shocked when she gave him a little smirk and conspiratorial whisper, ”Me too. I may have called him a few choice names over the years myself.”

A few of the wolves snickered.

I snorted. I’d heard my little mouse’s colorful expressions. No doubt her comments had been flavorfully articulated.

Hycinth continued her questioning, “So, what gave you the impression Leander did not consider me a true mate?”

Samuel’s glance cut nervously at me again. I reiterated through my teeth, “Speak freely.”

“Well, um...he didn’t seem interested in you for personal reasons, like a mate would, just what the pack needed for the Claiming Ceremony.”

A muscle in her jaw ticked, and she replied dryly, “Yes, he told me that too.”

I interjected, “Is it crystal clear I consider her as a true mate now?”

“Fuck yes,” Samuel breathed and shivered.

I smirked at her.

Hycinth had the audacity to roll her eyes.

Fuck. All that did was make me want her more.

She refocused on him and asked, “Did you see what Dagger was doing to me?”

He hung his head, shame coming off of him. He muttered, “No, I couldn’t see from the angle where exactly his hands were, but I heard you beg him to stop, so I just assumed he was doing something inappropriate.”

“Why didn’t you tell your Alpha what happened?”

Samuel’s head dipped lower. He whispered, “I should have.”

Hycinth refocused all of her attention on me. “I don’t think he deserves punishment for his words. He had good reason to presume I was no different in your eyes, and he spoke the truth based on that presumption—you would not tolerate another male touching a female until after you’d determined you were done with her, or as he put it, ’you got everything you wanted first.′ However, he never said you would give me away or pass me around. I made that assumption. Maybe I made it because of what Dagger was doing to me at the time. But I don’t see placing the blame on him for my misconception.”

She focused again on Samuel, and I was a little surprised at the shift in her questioning, “When Leander said he was going to cut off your tongue because your words caused me pain, why didn’t you defend yourself? You couldn’t have even known what he was referring to because you didn’t know my misconception. Why didn’t you even question what he meant before you submitted to your punishment?”

Samuel looked a little lost. “B-because he’s my Alpha...I don’t question or argue his orders.”

Fucking hell. The wolf was ready to let me cut off his tongue without even objecting, just because he wouldn’t question what I felt he deserved!

Hycinth faced me again and said quietly, “I do feel he was complicit in not speaking up. He should have told you what he’d seen Dagger do, what he’d heard. But I also think he has shown an exemplary level of submission and loyalty today.”

“Indeed he has,” I murmured my agreement.

I was in awe of her reasoning and her words, and her willingness to place blame where she felt it was rightly due, even if was on herself. Even without looking, I could sense the respect the wolves felt for her. It was thick in the air. She had just spoken up for one of their own, questioned him logically and fairly, and looked at all of the details from every vantage point.

Fuck. She was born to be a Luna.

“So what do you recommend his punishment be for not speaking up about Dagger’s actions?” I asked her.

She contemplated for a moment, studying him as he still knelt on the ground in front of her. “I would agree with you on removing his tongue. Not for the reason of him causing me pain with his words, but for his lack of reporting back to you what Dagger had done. Dagger’s actions were significant. He should have spoken up. He didn’t.”

Samuel blanched. Fear back in his eyes.

Shit. Okay. That wasn’t what I expected her to say. I was aware that I doled out heavy, if not extreme, punishments, but it kept them in line. I would not accept any disobedience from of my wolves. But I hadn’t anticipated her being as hard as I was. Maybe that’s why she wasn’t afraid after Dagger’s punishment.

Before I could say anything, she continued, “However, I think his exceptional display of loyalty-without-question today, has earned him the right to keep his tongue. Aside from removing any body parts, I defer his punishment to you. You know your wolves best.”

Fuck. My Wolf was nearly panting at her public display of submission to us.

Clever, clever girl.

If I weren’t careful, she’d have me wrapped around her little finger. I caught my father’s eye over her shoulder. It was apparent her behavior and choice of wording had surprised and impressed him as well.

I returned my attention to Samuel. “Stand to your feet, Wolf.”

He scrambled quickly to his feet, staring at her in profound relief and gratitude. “You’ll be running extra patrols for the next four weeks during the midnight to 4AM shift.”

“Thank you, Alpha!” he said quickly and turned to her, exclaiming with more emotion, the depth of his gratitude evident, ”Thank you, Luna!" Her face fell for just a moment at his words, before it evened out again. He didn’t know that she had no intention of being his Luna. From her wistful expression, I suspected she had enjoyed acting the part. She should. It’s what the Moon had destined her to be.

Now I just needed to convince her of it.

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