Hunter

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27. How to Make Bad Choices


“We’ve confirmed something else, too.” I gave Rebecca a long, meaningful look. “You are, without a doubt, completely out of your mind.”

Because she was, of course. There was no way in Hell that I was supernatural. Stupid? Yes. Brilliant? Also yes. Resourceful? Without a doubt. But supernatural? Definitely not. Never-in-a-million-years. No.

Instantly, her smile faded. “Why won’t you believe me? You follow logic, right?”

“On occasion,” I folded my arms, the blankets crinkling with the movement. “I believe I run off of logic about fifty percent of the time. The other fifty, I follow my emotions, which is usually when I make bad decisions.”

Rebecca raised an eyebrow. “Care to elaborate on that?”

No. But I held up my hand, putting up fingers as I listed events. “One, I was feeling confident enough to go after Ryker Marcel without backup. Two, I chose to help Opal and Kyle get away instead of saving my own skin. Three, I continuously allow your stupid Alpha to control me by constantly threatening Opal’s life. And I allow it to work because I can’t stand the thought that she’d die because of me.”

Her nose crinkled for a minute, thinking. “To have emotion is to be human,” she finally said. “You can’t spend your life with them shut off. Without emotions, who would you be?”

“I’d be able to get my job done without feeling guilty about anything,” I briefly recalled my encounter with Isla - she was practically harmless, somebody who refused to kill a human for food. And I’d tried to kill her. I would have killed her, had those strange abdominal pains not arrived in the nick of time.

“Uh-huh. And what is your job, exactly?”

“To kill supernatural beings.”

“Because...?”

For fuck’s sake, where is she going with this? “Because without them, the world will be a hell of a lot of a better place. Humans will be free again. We can live without fear of being slaughtered or abducted - well, only by one another, but still, it would be better than it is now.”

Oh, wait. I see. My entire crusade, my drive to make the world a better place by killing everything that moves at an inhuman speed, is driven by revenge. In other words, emotion.

Rebecca paused at my words, clearly finding something interesting in them. “Why don’t you want to believe that you’re supernatural?”

“Because I’m not.”

“Why don’t you believe it, Reese? Would being supernatural really be that awful?”

“Yes!” I shot out of the bed, my head spinning dizzily for a moment as I gained my balance. “I’ve spent seven years of my life hating supernatural begins for what they’ve done to the world. To my family. To me. I’ve spent three of those years hunting them down, feeding my revenge, bringing justice upon those who’ve brought everything to hell. And if after all this time, it turns out that I’m one of them? That I’m the very thing I’ve sworn to destroy? Where does that leave me?”

Silent for a long, long moment, Rebecca studied me carefully. “You must have realized by now,” she said slowly. “That not all supernatural beings are evil megalomaniacs who are obsessed with oppressing humans and everybody born weaker than they are. There are those who take advantage of their abilities, yes, but can you honestly say that if a normal human woke up one morning with supernatural abilities, they’d be any different?”

“Yes,” I said flatly, without an ounce of hesitation. “I can. In fact, I saw it for myself.”

Rebecca opened her mouth, probably about to ask me to elaborate, but something in my expression had her switching tactics. “Well, I’m living proof that it’s not true,” she said. “Sure, my alter ego is a mindless killer, but it hasn’t changed me in any way. I’ve always been Rebecca Randon. And I will continue to be Rebecca Randon, even if, as I said, I randomly wake up one morning with witch abilities.”

I think, deep down, a part of me wanted to agree with her. I wanted to believe that, like humans, supernatural beings were capable of both good and evil. But I knew, without my black-and-white vision, the entire podium I’d built my life around would crumble beneath me, sending me plummeting into a world of doubt and never-ending greyness.

I was better off automatically assuming any supernatural being I met was the enemy. It was less dangerous than giving them the benefit of the doubt.

As if sensing my thoughts, Rebecca’s mood changed. It seemed harsher. “You’re trying not to think too far into my words,” she mused. “You want to believe that we’re all evil, that we’re not capable of changing. That none of us want change. It’s discriminatory, Reese,” her voice rose with each word, and she took a breath to calm herself. “Look, I’m not asking you to believe me right away. All I’m asking is that you keep an open mind. Maybe realize that not everything is as it appears to me. I can’t change your mind for you, however hard I try. Only you can do that.”

I wanted to respond. With what, I didn’t quite know. Maybe I was going to wave off her words again with denial and quick wit. Maybe I was going to agree to mull things over. To keep an open mind, as she said. Or maybe I wasn’t going to say anything at all.

I never found out, though, because at that moment, somebody with questionable timing - whether it was a good or bad questionable was yet to be determined - threw open the door, and at once an aura of silent command swept over me, mixed with anger and a sizable ego.

Three guesses who entered the room.

Spinning on my heel, I turned to face the door, a glare ready and waiting on my face. He, of course, didn’t even bother to look at me, instead zeroing in on Rebecca.

“Rebecca,” he said, his voice tight, like he was struggling to keep it even and steady. From the way his right hand flexed at his side, I guessed he was in a bit of a bad mood.

Me too.

“There’s a door,” Rebecca said, her somber mood instantly vanishing as she cheerily greeted her brother. Honestly, she seemed more passive-aggressive than anything. “You should knock it. That’s called privacy.”

He gave her a flat stare, his expression not moving in the slightest. He was not impressed by Rebecca’s sass. “Simon needs help with his tracking practice,” he said. “Go help him.”

In response, Rebecca settled herself more comfortably into the chair, crossing her legs. “Go help him...?”

No response. If anything, his expression darkened. I wondered how far Rebecca was able to push him. If she’s ever met the limits of his patience with her.

“Now,” he said, and that was that. Rebecca, after a moment’s hesitation, uncurled herself from the chair and practically strutted across the room, making a show of following Elijah’s orders.

She paused in the doorway, turning back to me. “Please, Reese, think about what I said.” And just like that, she left.

Leaving me alone.

With him.

Fantastic. Just what I need.

The tension in the room was nearly unbearable as he finally shifted his gaze to me.

The last I saw of him, he was shouting at me to back away from wolf-Rebecca. He’d sounded afraid. Worried. Though the way he glowered at me now, I knew I was probably recalling the memory incorrectly.

I refused to be cowed by his fuming temperament. I was not going to become a quaking mess in his wake. I stood my ground, meeting his eyes defiantly, crossing my arms.

“I want to see Opal,” I said, speaking first and breaking the unbearably tense silence.

He didn’t respond for a long while, eyeing me carefully. I could almost see the anger in him rise, the pressure building up like lava in a volcano, until...

“What the fuck happened out there?” he erupted. “Why didn’t you kill her?”

The best way to handle this was to keep my voice soft and quiet to calm this dangerous, wild animal. To speak rationally and keep my emotions in check. To bring him down from this weird frenzy of rage before anything bad happened.

Did I do any of that?

Of course not. I did the exact opposite, matching his temper and his tone - quite an impressive feat, I must say, since his disposition seemed like it could level mountains and slaughter cities at this point.

“What do you mean, why didn’t I kill her?” I kind of wanted to wave my hands around like a lunatic to dramatize my words, but I settled for balling them into fists against my chest. “Why didn’t you kill her? You had her, and then you let her get away!”

“I wouldn’t have had to kill her in the first place if you hadn’t blown your cover!”

We sounded like bickering children. I forced my tone to soften. Just a smidge. Okay, not at all. If anything, I amped it up. “Well, I’m sorry that my body decided it wanted to experiment to see if it could self-destruct!”

He blinked. “What?”

I sighed. “I’m fairly certain you should have let me stay in the infirmary for longer than two days after I almost died. I think I had some kind of internal injury, because these sharp, agonizing pains kept exploding in my abdomen and ripping their way across my chest. I thought I was dying.”

“Tristan said all of your injuries were external.” He seemed very confused. “There were x-rays.”

“I’m glad to see you’re concerned over my physical health,” I said.

He ignored me. Of course. Instead, he appeared to be mulling something over, his skin creasing between his brows. My hand itched to smooth it out. No. Bad. You don’t want to do that.

Oh, yes we do.

Goddamn that voice. I was going to - Who’s side are you on, anyway?

No response. Sometimes, I that the voice is the cause of all my problems. Ever since it first whispered in my head, that day at the university, everything’s gone downhill. I reached rock bottom, and then I shot through the floor and kept falling down to Hell.

I wonder what’s below Hell.

“And when,” he said, his voice unnaturally calm. “Did these pains occur?”

“What are you, a doctor?” I muttered. “While I was kissing Isla. I don’t think my immune system like that I was kissing the enemy, but - ”

I broke off as emotion spread across his face, and he didn’t bother wiping it away. something that looked an awful lot like... well, glee was the only way to describe it. A moment later, the glee still remained, though it was now mingled with an emotion that could only be described as dread. Glee, dread, and... anticipation? Of what?

“Glad to see my pain brings you such joy,” I snarked.

As if he realized what he was doing - gasp! Showing emotion? How scandalous! - his expression switched back into the carefully arranged mixture of anger, arrogance, and pride. I’d tried a few times to mimic this expression in the new mirror in the bathroom; replacing the one I’d smashed. I clenched my hand as I thought about the mirror. It only ached now. Weird.

He took a step toward me. “Maybe,” he said thoughtfully. “You shouldn’t have kissed her.”

I raised an eyebrow. “Excuse me?”

“It wasn’t your smartest decision.” Another slow step. “Do you normally kiss your targets?”

Of course not. In fact, Isla was the first one. Sure, I end up seducing most of them, but that’s just to make it easier to bring them to a secluded area to make the kill. If I had it my way, I’d kill them the moment we make eye contact.

He didn’t bother waiting for my answer, guessing it beforehand. “So why kiss her at all? Why kiss her a second time, if it was hurting you?” He was advancing slowly by this point, his eyes darkening. I had to move away. I knew moving away was the smart choice. But... I didn’t want to. My legs, conveniently, didn’t seem to be too interested in working properly. The closer he got, the more the tension rose. The more electrified the air grew. I wasn’t sure if he noticed it. I sure as hell did.

Well, two could play this game. I waited until he stood just a pace away, then raised my chin and looked him dead in the eyes. Summoning way more confidence than I felt at that moment, I said, “Well, the funny thing is, I was experimenting.”

He tilted his head, puzzlement briefly appearing before it was wiped away. I swear, his face was like a whiteboard. I wished I had the ability to hide emotions as soon as they came. “Kindly elaborate, Little Hunter. Experimenting, how?”

I refused to blush. I refused to look away. I hardened my stare, allowing a smirk to spread across my face. Ah, Reese Hearne. The epitome of confidence. “I was flirting with her. Seducing her, like you wanted me to, might I remind you. And yet, you didn’t look very happy with my antics, so I did what any rational one might do in that situation.”

Understanding dawned across his expression. “And why, Reese, would you want to make me jealous? Are you insinuating something?” He took another step. If any of us leaned forward, we’d be touching.

Not that I’m measuring.

“Of course not.” I moved, crossing my arms across my chest, my elbows brushing his abdomen. Was it just me, or did his breathing hitch ever-so-slightly at the contact? On impulse, I removed that extra bit of space between us, now having to crane my neck to look up at him. Damn werewolves and their tall genes. “Like I said,” I murmured, “It was an experiment. A fun game for me to play.” His breathing had definitely hitched again. I batted my lashes, briefly hating myself for the action as I abruptly moved away, backing toward the small table standing a few meters from the bed.

“Since, you know,” I continued. “I can’t kill you, which is what I’d much rather do.”

His eyes darkened further, his rage growing. I am getting exceptionally good at pissing Elijah Randon off.

“I think,” he said, his tone icy. Aw, did I hurt his feelings? Sensitive baby. “That I won’t allow you to see your beloved witch just yet.”

Ex-fucking-cuse me?

“You said,” I said slowly, trying to rein in my rapidly-growing temper. Don’t we love being easily angered? “That I could see Opal after the mission. New flash, Elijah; it’s after the fucking mission.” Ah, yes. Great job at keeping your temper in check.

He stilled. “What did you just call me?”

I waved him away. “You seriously expect me to call you by your title? You’re not my Alpha, and I certainly won’t bother treating you with respect. That’s to be earned, and so far, your respect points have found themselves insuperably in the negatives.”

Nostrils flaring, he clenched his fists. I wondered if he’d hit me. I wondered if he’d even dare to. He hasn’t laid a hand on me yet; he seems to have drawn a line for himself. I wondered if I’d ever do something to make him cross that line.

I wasn’t sure if I wanted to find out.

“We agreed,” he said quietly - dangerously quiet, his voice containing barely controlled fury. “That you could see your witch after you completed your mission to seduce and kill Isla Randon - which, I recall, you left only half-complete, since you screwed up and derailed the entire plan. So, no, I don’t think I’ll let you see her.”

Is he seriously bringing up the fine details of the agreement? After I nearly died twice because of him and that stupid mission?

I had it. I needed to hit something.

Spinning around, I grabbed one of the rounded stakes I’d whittled days earlier, lying on the table waiting to be used. In a split-second, I aimed, drew my hand back, and threw the stake with all of my might toward the stupid Alpha bothering me with his stupid alluring voice.

It sunk into his shoulder. I heard the noise it made.

Frowning, he glanced down at it like it was no more than a minor inconvenience. Slowly, he pulls it out, blood dripping from the wooden point, splattering the floor with scarlet flecks. His neatly-pressed shirt now had a gaping hole in it, the fabric wet with a growing red stain.

Tossing the stake away, he glanced up and locked eyes with me. I heard the stake clatter to the ground across the room.

He grinned, then moved - and suddenly, he was in front of me, using his supernatural speed to move faster than I ever could. I backed away, stopping when my thighs hit the table. Swiftly, in two strides, he subtracted the distance between us.

Leaving me with nowhere to go. Well, fuck.

He knew this, too, as his pupils dilated with glee and he leaned down, his lips brushing my ear. I hated how I didn’t hate it.

“You decided to make me jealous?” he whispered. His breath caressed me, stirring my hair, causing the rebellious strands to tickle my cheek. “Unfortunately, Little Hunter, I have my own game to play.”

I shivered at his words. Goddamn it. Even when he’s threatening me, he’s still hot.

I did not just think that.

Glaring up at him, I placed one hand on his chest. Then two. He drew back, just slightly, gaining some more height over me.

“I hate you,” I whispered. “I hate you more than anything else in this world.”

It was true, of course. There a boiling, bubbling black pit in my soul where my hatred of him resided. It was the place I drew my words from every time we spoke. The place where I retreated to during the moments where I wanted him.

Which is why it surprised me now to find that though I was floating in that blackness, I still had that nearly-irresistible craving.

Still, I wasn’t nearly as surprised as I was when, impulsively, I acted upon it.


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