3 months later
We all dance carefree under lantern light while aromatic fumes of freedom fuel our desire to be reckless with each other. The life of a Shade was a dangerous one on Genesis – with great reward. But here in Cracklen, our home five miles underground, it was safe enough to be free.
Spirited fools dressed for trekking through caves, dance along the street fires while checking out the Midnight Market, hooking up with any willing females who line the streets, ready to play some games.
Everyone here lived without worry for constant threats from the Dominions. It was easy living and most of the time it was fun too. I enjoyed absorbing it all without participating too much. Being on the sidelines was enough. Getting in it overwhelmed me.
I sway between dancers on my own, dressed in a steel grey loose dress, linked through by tiny threaded metal strands.
Everyone in Cracklen was protected by a mastermind of the Dominions – the almighty Hades… my saviour.
I look past heads and shoulders to get another site of him down the square. A quiet giant with the ferocious snarl of a rebel leader who challenged any ordered authority. He lived for tumultuous adventure and fluid change.
Right now, I watch his manner. Hades couldn’t really settle in one place. Always moving. Always.
I’ll admit. I think I’ve had the biggest crush on him for these last 3 months, while he mentored me on how to be normal, after saving me from the slavery of Wolf Dominion.
Argh, damn it, Hades made my mind wander a little too much to pointless places. I’ve stopped dancing now to stop my needless staring at his conversation with a pretty new girl, who I’ve heard escaped the Bear Dominion. My eyes were too intense when I was focused on a target. I had to back off or risk coming across as a crazy person.
I never… I never really healed my fractured mind completely. But I had learned how to cope. But that also didn’t mean some basic human emotions didn’t plague me.
Shaking off a bit of dumb envy from her attention from Hades, I turn to a boy handing out the night news.
I grab one scroll of print that I can actually read pretty well now – and I check the headlines for the harsh politics on Genesis.
Cat, Bear, Reptile and Wolf are all covered.
Reporting of C. Dom:
ID tagging now the main objective of Imperator Opular.
Spies say Solividian stock is running low; mining equipment continues to fail.
Engagement of the Submit Act now suggested for wayward aggression tailored their way.
Reporting of B. Dom:
Territory Patrol Upgraded.
Warning to Outsiders during Breeding Season; STAY OUT OR DIE.
2 Prized Missing Breeders on the run. Reward at 10,000 S per return to King Vizentium per Neutral Ground.
Reporting of R. Dom:
Hydra Nightly orders all Reptiles to cease torturous ‘rippings’ and stick to clean cuts when slaughtering the enemy.
Nightly survives C. Dom’s attempt to assassinate.
Reporting of W. Dom:
Nothing stops my inner turmoil every time I see nothing listed under Wolf Dominion.
They were an empire that fell so quickly. And became invisible.
All because of an estranged family brother; Hades. A rare Omega.
Now, from his planning, Cat Dominion rule all Beast Kind on Genesis – minus Cracklen. We were the only place left completely untouched and ignored. Shades were not a threat to Cat when they were once to Wolf. Why? A Neutrality Treaty. Hades secured our freedom by helping swap out the Dominions. A very simple trade.
Yes. Oh soo very charismatic Hades – saving not only his ass while handing over the wolves to the feline invasion – but saving his free little Clan of rogue Shades. What little was left of us anyway.
As I am reading off to the side of the Midnight Market, the news is plucked from my hands, over my head – by calloused and dusty hands. He is so familiar to me now.
I spin around to watch Hades glancing from the scroll, to my face.
He smirks slowly, “There are no truths, Ryder,” he gazes at me from the paper, “Only shades of the truth exist. Why do you look so dead inside every time you see me at night?”
I feel my expression depress further into a blank state, because you remind me of Skye and Raygar and Vastian because they’re your brothers and they’re probably all dead because of you. And still, even so, I somehow stupidly fell in love with you and your ways, despite what you may or may not have done to your own blood.
Instead, I answer with, “I am thinking about breakfast tomorrow. About work,” I reply, lying straight off my tongue.
Hades doesn’t blink as his green eyes capture and hold my whole soul, as his hand scrunches the news slowly in his fist.
His beautiful eyes.
“Sometimes you smile and laugh all day like you’ll never stop… and other days you lose all your fire – you know what’s funny though?” Hades raises a brow, and I’m already blushing despite no threat, “It’s always when I’m talking to another girl –”
I spoke too soon.
“No, you’re crazy!” I yell a little hysterically, crossing my arms over my chest, “I’m thinking about work – I’m going back… I’m going to retire early. Bye –”
“Let it go, wait, I’m going to introduce you to a potential friend. I think you’ll like Cindy, she’s a new recruit, ran from the Bears – she reminds me of you. Bred against her will and –” Hades excitedly ushers her forward, stepping aside to reveal the pretty girl tailing him. Cindy is short in stature with long flowing braids all the way to her knees.
She walks forward to me very shyly, head down, hands behind her back. Tight. Too tight.
“Hello?” I ask, a bit strained and a bit awkward but I’m feeling my gut turn with a specific instinct.
The new girl is whispering something under her breath.
I don’t think I hear her right.
“…Death to the Last Luna…”
Cindy raises her head – yellow eyes dilated, hand striking from her back holding a small thin surgical blade.
The crowd around watch in a sudden silence as my hand shoots out and snaps around her wrist, twisting her hand back to herself – I slam the blade home into her neck, then step back from her fall.
I watch as Cindy collapses to her side, blood spurting from the cut artery.
It spurts so high it sprays across Hade’s left cheek.
He squints as it fountains down then spurts again with her dying heart beat and wheezing breaths.
The crowd is nervous but also entertained with Hades’ calm response while I stand still and utterly dead inside, trying to comprehend what she just said and what I just did without thinking.
“The Messier never left you, huh?” Hades murmurs at me, watching me slyly, “Ryder – yoohoo?” he waves a hand in front of me and I grab his wrist and shove it back to his side.
“I see you,” I snap, my mouth contorting into an irritated scowl.
“Heh. Sorry I didn’t see that coming – my bet is she got paid to take you out, freedom for your head, maybe?” Hades suggests, before addressing the curious crowd, “Nothing to see here – just a dead idiot. Back up – we’ll deal.”
Hades motions over a trusted ally to clean up the mess, while he takes my arm in his hand and drags me over to a stand selling weapons.
We’re away from most ears over here.
“How many times have strangers tried to kill you?” Hades asks me, seriously, knowing I kept these numbers to myself. I shrug, it doesn’t matter, “Ryder, you’re attracting negative attention… I told you to turn that off –”
“It’s who I am.”
“It’s who I am too,” Hades rolls his eyes and grabs my throat a bit rough as he leans down to use his own personal death drawl to make a point, “But if you don’t assimilate here you’ll one day attract a whole Dominion. Duty is the death of everything – so don’t attract it.”
“I was just standing there,” I growl, “I didn’t do anything.”
Hades slips his hand from my neck and pets me through my knotted hair instead, as he smiles mischievously now, “I know – you can’t help being a bad bitch.”
I gasp, “Excuse me?”
“It doesn’t matter, you fucked up,” Hades smirks, his eyes twinkle, “Vizentium of the Bears is going to personally hunt you for killing Cindy – the point of that. You got baited easy. Now you need to hide. For a bit anyway. So go home.”
I sigh and shrug, “I like it when you act like my father,” I say it off the bat, and immediately regret it, “You remind me of him. Protective.”
“I’m an Alpha when I need to be,” Hades gives me a knowing look, “Get.”
“You never –” I stop myself.
Shaking my head, I turn, but Hades barks authoritatively.
“I never what?”
I spin back around.
I wanted to ask this… and never had the courage.
But – if I didn’t ask it – I would never know the answer.
“You never come home with me,” I say. Don’t blush, fool. I’m pretty sure I’m red already! We share the same roof, but he doesn’t abuse my presence. Never has. Yet wanting him with me – I had no idea how to initiate that. I was used to a man taking from me. Hades blinks slow and processes what I mean, “Well?” I ask, nervous while waiting.
“I know better than to fuck with a Lunatic,” Hades is warm with the insult, as his eyes don’t blink but dilate further as he waits for me to scowl.
However, he just made the exact same joke as Raygar did the last night I was with him…
I start to smile, to force it on, but Hades winks at my tortured expression and turns as he abruptly walks off.
I lose my smile.
He always did that.
I cared way too much about the little things. How he walked and how he talked. All of it.
Hades was an unhealthy obsession.
I just wanted to show him how much I appreciated him. But he was impossible to touch. He wasn’t immovable, he was the opposite. He moved so much I couldn’t catch him for long.
I turn to go home, my head in the wrong place.
The problem with freedom wasn’t the choices suddenly available to me.
It was the heart you gained.
I never thought I could love something I couldn’t hold. I didn’t realise you had to fight for love like this when there was peace.
And more than anything – it confused me. My intense neediness.
I… I craved Hades dominance.
I wanted him to chase me but he had a habit of running off from me instead.
And I certainly wouldn’t call him back over. I was desperate enough already for his attention.
He was a master manipulator of my emotions – and others. I fucking knew it and still I was obsessed.
I’ll admit; it was a damn good distraction from the fallen Alpha of Genesis; Skye. Who may or may not be dead. Like the rest of Wolf Dominion. Hades had become my last remnant of Wolf Dominion – Hades himself had become my new home. For all I knew, he was all that was left. And so I felt a little… possessive of the Omega.
In my heart – he felt like mine. Like I… like I owned him.
I wasn’t sure that was the right word.
But it was something. And he was something.
And I was…
I just killed a girl who tried to cut my head off.
Shut up brain.
I needed to wash up and get some shut eye.