THERON

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FOUR.

Two pairs of brown eyes stare up at the night sky, the moon our only focus. The many thousands of years I spent cursing that Goddess then one day with Lina and now I’m silently praying to that evil deity for guidance.

Desperation causes such oddities, I guess.

Talking to Lina is as easy as breathing. It requires no thought, no insecurities, no doubts. She listens with not only her ears, but her eyes and her body, never straying from me and taking in everything I have to explain. She never asks for details but I give them to her anyway, no matter how hard they are to vocalize because with her I am not trying to hide my shame... I don’t feel the need to. From the reason I was at her cabin the first day we met fourteen years ago to this very moment we find ourselves in now—I tell her everything.

For once in my life, someone looks at me without judgment. She isn’t disgusted or appalled by the things I’ve done. She doesn’t fear me. This is all so new to me that I don’t know if it’s real or not.

A self-inflicted pinch to my arm tells me I am very much awake and not hallucinating and for that, I adore her even more.

“So then, what now?” Lina asks softly, stands of stray blonde hair blow in the gentle breeze by the river. The moonlight illuminates her face, making her features glow exemplary. If I had to be truthful with myself, I would admit she’s breathtaking in every sense of the word. If I didn’t already know she is a werewolf, I would almost believe her to be a goddess instead... A goddess whose attention is solely on me and me alone.

But, as much as I secretly crave her every second of adoration, this is a rare minute in time where I suddenly wish I wasn’t the center of it.

I really have no answer for her.

Falling back into the grass, I prop myself up on one elbow, facing her. Glancing once more at that cursed sphere in the starlit sky, I sigh, “I’m not sure.” I’m not too prideful. She should understand that even the all-mighty Ancients were at a loss about what to do... me, most of all. How do you protect a species you spent millennia despising?

I pick at the blades on the grass beside me, suddenly finding the meaningless action most intriguing, “DeLoren and I have discussed ignoring the council’s wishes. We need to meet with the heads of the other mythicals.” I glance up at her, gauging her reaction. Lina’s gorgeous eyes widen and her delicate brows furrowed in concern, “Won’t the council punish you for going against them?”

At this, I can’t contain my laughter, “Who exactly do you think created the council? They may oversee the everyday dealings amongst our wolves and lycans but we are still the authority.” I smirk, “They only have as much power as we allow.”

“Of course,” she smiles, shyly.

Her change in demeanor perks my beast up. Did I just embarrass her? I swear I think her cheeks might be flushed, but the darkness doesn’t allow me to confirm that... although I was positively beaming inside, knowing I caused that.

Cue the screeching halt.

Why do I care what effect I have on her?

I don’t and neither does the monster inside me.

Right?

Right.

I think...

“So...” she proceeds meekly, “why haven’t you done it before now?”

She’s so cute.

Ugh, no...

She is Lina.

She is my friend.

“Respect...” I huff, composure suddenly regained. “Or so I am told. It’s just a bunch of political horse shit. I didn’t care for the creation of such a group in the first place but since I had no kin to be concerned over, I was outvoted.”

The debate over a collective council arose from the insatiable upsurge in the population of our species, thanks to my three brothers. Say DeLoren bedded a total of five human females in a span of one hundred years (that’s being extremely too conservative for that particular brother), each woman had one child born a werewolf or lycan (dependent upon DNA compatibility, it was a fifty-fifty scenario), and thus they bred and then their offspring bred and so on and so forth... The trees just branched out from there.

My brothers couldn’t be a stable presence in all the lives of their extended families so there was a need to create a political power that could enforce rules, regulations, and laws. It seemed like a better idea than nominating one person to have all the authority such as a King Alpha... we learned from the witches how things should not be run.

Lina wraps her arms around her legs, giving me a small smile, “You’re not involved in much of our politics, huh?” That smile... strange that such a common, everyday thing would cause a flutter within my stomach.

I think that’s what that is.

Of course, it could be indigestion.

Yeah.

Totally indigestion.

I chuckle, bitterly, “No.” I try to remember if I had told her that specifically.

Maybe not.

I guess I just assumed everyone already knew.

She cocks her head to the side and eyes me, curiously, “But why? Think of all the good you could do.” Uh, no... What I do think though, is how that is probably my favorite look that has so far adorned her beautiful face.

I snort, “Good? Like what? Everything I did for the last fourteen years? I don’t do good, Lina. That will never change.” I bring fear, blood, and death; ‘good’ has never been a word used to describe me and I have no illusions that it ever will. But I’m okay with that. It is who I am.

The truth is, she doesn’t know me. She read the histories, she absorbed everything I told her but still, I instantly feel as if I have disappointed her in some way. If that was the case then I would not apologize. Regardless of what effect she may have had on me since the moment I laid my eyes on her mattered not, the band-aid needed to be ripped off. She had to accept that I am not a hero in this diegesis or any other.

I never will be.

The sounds of the forest cut through our sudden silence. The crickets are singing loudly and an owl hoots in the distance... innocent creatures without a care in the world. They do not know what’s possibly coming their way—ignorance is bliss.

I miss Bliss.

“I’m going with you,” she states, too fucking calmly like it’s the most nonchalant, easy as pie, carefree, and not totally and ridiculously the most dangerous thing in the world to say. “Absolutely not,” I replied, incredulously. As much as I want to keep an eye on her, as much as I don’t want to leave her side, a journey to any of the other mythical authorities is risky and I need to keep my wits about me. She would be a distraction and a distraction during this kind of mission was deadly.

“Absolutely so!” She exclaims, jumping to her feet in protest.

I follow suit, ”Not happening.” Were we really going to argue about this?

“Excuse me?” She shrieks, her small hands ball into tight fists at her sides.

‘Excuse me?’

‘Excuse me’ she asks!

Pft.

Okay, maybe I didn’t make myself clear... “You will stay here, with your friends, safe and sound,” I state firmly. “It’s not up for discussion.” Why did she think this was even debatable? More importantly, why did she ruin the moment? Sure, we weren’t discussing the most comforting of topics but I was enjoying the relieving feeling of nonexistent frustration I hadn’t felt in fourteen years. Why couldn’t she just let me have this moment?

“You can’t tell me what to do. I am not a measly peasant wolf you can keep under your thumb, Theron! This affects me too!” Lina points to herself as if I haven’t spent fourteen damn years trying to protect her from this very shit. I am more than aware of how it affects her—she need not remind me. I roar, “Yes and if I remember correctly the only reason I am even involved in this whole shit storm is that it affects you!” I would rather be anywhere but dealing with this mess—out on my own, ignoring everyone and everything around me. The extinction of werewolves does not concern me one bit as we were never supposed to exist in the first place. We are not natural—we’re cursed. But then I met Catalina Bakkas and now the rest of my life would be spent keeping her safe and attending to her every whim like the good little doggie I somehow, magically, became.

Lina’s eyebrows shoot to her hairline, her mouth falling open in sync.

Ha, adorable.

No.

Fuck, there is something seriously wrong with me.

“I never asked you to! I will not be punished for your decision!” Lina squeals, ”I’m going!”

Oh hell no, she did not just fucking take it there!

Ungrateful...

“The fuck you are,” I retort. I’ll be damned if I spent this long trying to protect her only for it to be all for not the second we were reunited.

She crosses her arms over her chest and glares at me, “So you’re telling me, that you would be just fine leaving me in the hands of three simple humans? Because last time I checked, you didn’t even trust my dad enough not to have a guard dog stalk me in the shadows.” She opens her arms wide, her emotions flaring outward and figuratively smacking me straight in the chest, “Tell me Theron, which Ancient will be staying behind to babysit me this time? We both know Kai won’t do it, so who does that leave? DeLoren?!” She gives me a cocky smirk, leaning forward into my space, “Do you want to break the news to him, or shall I? I’m sure he’ll be ecstatic to hear this!”

I would never in my life ask DeLoren to watch over her—I’d rather die a thousand and one deaths. Even the mere thought of such a thing angers me immensely. “Lina,” I growl in warning, this was not a topic that should be up for discussion.

Why am I even entertaining this argument?

Why do I feel the need to explain myself?

Why do I find her so fucking hot right now?!

I instantly shake that thought from my head.

I am not a teenage wolf in heat.

I am Theron.

She is Lina.

And she is pissing me off.

She needs to learn her place and as much as my beast grumbles at the idea of leaving her in the incapable hands of two inexperienced teeny boppers and a chocolate candy bar, I’m not going to budge. There’s no way I can keep an eye on her plus have a civilized, uninterrupted conversation with other supernatural chair heads at the same.

It just won’t work.

“I am not a child anymore—I’m going.” Did she just pout and stomp her foot? Because that does not help to further her case. “We’ll see about that,” I seethe, her stubbornness is infuriating me... I think. Goddess, all these new feelings are confusing the shit out of me. One second I’m content, then happy, then frustrated, then pissed, then turned on—what the actual fuck is happening to me?

“You freaking bet we will!” She throws her hands up in the air and stares me down. I can’t help but eye her back as I suppress the immediate urge to chuckle—was she attempting to intimidate me? Maybe I should call her Cat like her friends as she reminds me of a mad, little kitten—too cute to take seriously. And its at this moment that a devious thought occurs to me...

“Okay, CATalina." I cross my arms over my chest and simper, “Seems we are at an impasse. Let’s see how much werewolf knowledge your father passed on to you: in our world, what do we do when we passionately want something we are refused?” It takes about zero point two seconds but I am slightly proud to say her expression lights up as she realizes where this is heading.

She grins, “We fight for it.” I nod, solemnly, though I really want to return that grin. She doesn’t know what’s about to hit her. Not only will she have no choice but to stay here when she loses, but experiencing her fighting skills will help me access if I need an Ancient to stay behind as well for extra protection. We keep reminding ourselves that she is, indeed, no longer six years old—now she will need to prove it. She wants to be looked at as a “big girl,” this is the time to show me she can handle herself.

And relieve my anxiety, but I digress.

“You know the rules, I presume?” I mean, I have to make sure. I’m not looking to fall victim to any bite marks because a young wolf can’t control her shift. “Human form only, first to be pinned loses,” she states matter of factly. We only fought in wolf form if it was to the death—I want to protect her, not tear her throat out. Either way, in whichever shape, I will always have the size advantage... and experience, but that goes without saying. I taunt, “Ready to lose?”

“Are you?” She asks, mirth dancing within her brown eyes,

Ooh, confident.

I like it.

We both take our fight stance and I motion her forward—bring it, little wolf.

She doesn’t have to think twice.

With a sprinting start, Lina runs towards me. Mimicking her tactic, I move fast to meet her halfway. She jumps, propelling herself into the air, but I was never one to crash into someone... kind of lame—lacks creativity. Falling to my knees, I slide underneath her, the wet grass allowing for my body to move forward on its own. Reaching up, I grab her leg as I pass by, bringing her down to the ground with me. I’m fairly certain this will be a quick fight—I mean, I do have places to be and people to see.

She falls hard, face down in the dewy grass and there’s a split second where I think I hurt her, but again... a split second. Lina swiftly turns onto her back, taking advantage of my compassionate hesitation. The leg I don’t have in my clutches extends out kicking me square in the chest. The force of it is surprisingly strong, startling me and sending me skidding backward on my ass.

Both of us simultaneously flip to our feet, she gives me no room to take a single breath before she’s sending kick after roundhouse kick into my face. At this point I am merely in defense mode, blocking her with my forearms.

Fuck me, this girl is fast.

But she leaves her core open with every kick so, I just have to be faster. I send a quick and powerful punch to her stomach, causing her to stumble backward and give me a bit of space.

Punch, kick, block, punch, punch, block, kick... good lord this is taking longer than I thought.

She is good.

Really good.

My beast howls in approval.

BUT she’s making me look like a pussy so I cannot agree.

A snarl rips through my chest, instinct causing me once again to grab her outstretched leg, swinging her to the ground. I was done swatting those feet away, it’s time to go on offense.

Lina, not even slightly deterred, scissors her legs around my neck, flipping me over her head. Like a flash, we’re both on our feet once more, but this time, I’m not about to give her a chance to use those strong legs anymore.

My arm shoots out grabbing her around the waist and spinning her into my embrace. Trapped between my arms and my chest, we stand frozen, shoulders rising and falling in heavy pants.

I got her.

All I have to do was bring her down to the ground and she knows it. I smirk, “You concede?”

Her eyes meet mine, an intensity there I cannot decipher. Big, brown irises seem to look right into my soul, setting a fire ablaze inside me—arrogance suddenly turns into doubt as her hands softly run up my chest and over my collarbone, hitching my breath.

What in the holy shits of shits was happening right now?

As they continue their way up my neck, farther past my jaw, settling gently on the sides of my face, they abruptly halt any further thoughts of taking her out. Her thumbs caress my cheeks, sending tiny sparks throughout my body... but that isn’t what stirred a long-forgotten feeling within me. No, that would be too easy to ignore. Where she has me, what is making my heart flutter wildly inside my chest and leaves my head spinning are those eyes—those eyes that flickered to my lips.

So frozen at this moment, so enraptured by the confusion of what she’s doing, how she is doing it, and why she may be doing it has me breathless, my mind swirling with a million different possible scenarios of what’s to come.

Is she going to kiss me?

Do I want her to kiss me?

I don’t know how to answer any of those questions. What I do know, is whatever she decides, I have no plans of stopping her, which confuses me even more. But I cannot find any part of me that dislikes it one bit.

I am Theron.

She is Lina.

This should feel wrong...

But it doesn’t.

Her hand snakes behind my neck, forcing my head to dip near hers.

I don’t resist.

Inches away now, her sweet breath fans my face, awakening a growing need inside my shorts. It might have taken my brain a while longer to get on the same page as my heart and my body but suddenly, it has caught up.

I want this.

Whatever this was, doesn’t matter.

I no longer question why I feel this way, it’s no longer a mystery what she stirs inside of me. Fourteen years of adoring a little girl had suddenly and unexpectedly switched to desiring a very grown woman.

And I’ve not known desire in long, long time.

Her lips hover centimeters over mine, it’s all I could do just to keep myself from taking what I want. If this friendship is going to evolve, and evolve rapidly, I’ll allow her to lead the way because I know, without a doubt, that I will follow her anywhere, no matter the destination. If this is the direction she’s taking me, I am more than happy to trail along.

Why?

I have no clue.

She is Lina.

I am Theron.

She is perfect.

And I... am weak.

“Never,” she whispers.

Wait...

What?

Desire immediately switches back to familiar confusion as she quickly rolls right, her body twisting over my back with such speed and grace, I question whether this was a fight or a dance. As soon as she lands on her feet, she shoves her knee harshly into my stomach, her strength enough to cause me pain.

Me.

Gasping for breath, the impact to my abdomen instantly makes me keel over.

But Lina isn’t done.

Her open palm juts upwards, into my nose, snapping my head back and knocking me to the ground.

Flat on my back.

Before I can even consider regaining my senses, she’s straddling me, her tiny hands around my throat, threatening a kill shot.

And now reality has set in reality and I register that I’ve actually lost this fight.

My first loss ever... to a she-wolf, no less.

Lina smiles brightly and pats my cheek, “So, who are we going to see first, handsome?”

I lost.

I am Theron.

And I lost.

How did this happen?

She is Lina.

She beat me.

She is going with me.

I groan in defeat, letting my head fall back to rest on the wet grass. That damn glowing sphere in the sky stares back at me, unwavering. Tout de suite, I narrow my eyes and glare hatefully back.

I swear I feel as if that fucking moon Goddess is mocking me now.

Bitch.
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