Hunter

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33. How to Realize the Truth


Say whatever you will about me, but the one thing I’ve never done and never will do is go back on my word.

Fifteen-year-old, emotionally shocked me told a brand-new werewolf Alpha that I’d hunt him down and make him pay for killing my dad. I meant that.

Twenty-three-year-old me told that same Alpha seven years later that I wouldn’t try to escape. I meant that too, though I only made that promise to begin with because being in such close quarters to Toronto’s pack would greatly help my half-baked revenge plan.

And two months after that promise, I told Luca that I wouldn’t go see Elijah, under any circumstances. Well, I didn’t say it like that, but the overall message was heavily implied.

I wasn’t a dog to be summoned. I was half-witch, not half-werewolf - which was a fact that was still difficult to fully comprehend.

I had a supernatural parent. I wasn’t completely human. I was supernatural. My whole life, I thought I was one thing when in reality, I was really something else. It’s a lot to take in.

Of course, my attention wasn’t fixated on that new piece of information; instead, I’d tucked it safely into some dark corner of my mind that was cluttered with cobwebs and tumbleweeds to be taken out, examined, and absorbed some other day. I had other things to worry about, such as figuring out how the hell Rebecca’s going to find Elijah’s mate to talk him out of human oppression. Though I was much more in favor of Evangeline’s plan B, which included simply murdering him so Rebecca could take his place as Alpha.

Though killing him would be much easier if I had something to kill him with. But unfortunately, my beloved silver dagger was still sitting somewhere in Elijah’s study, gathering dust.

My fingers twitched, wishing for the comforting way the dagger rested in my hand. I missed how satisfying it felt to use the dagger, the way it cleaved through skin, muscle, and bone as though the werewolves I slew with it were made of nothing more than paper - well, evil paper that gave out fatal paper cuts if you weren’t careful.

I cast the thought from my head, focusing instead on the book splayed out across my lap. It was one of the books Simon had brought me during the end of my solitude, an informative textbook like A Study of The Supernatural, but focused entirely on werewolves. I wanted to know more about werewolf bonds. How easily broken were they? Was a pack blindly loyal to their Alpha Would Elijah’s mate be able to help us in our cause? Of course, if his mate happened to be just as stubborn and moral as he, then we’d all be completely and utterly fucked.

So, here’s to hoping that his mate just so happens to be a human sympathizer.

It would be very convenient and very concerning if something happened to go right in my life. If his mate easily joined our cause, then my first thought would be if she was a spy. Or a saboteur. Or a spy saboteur.

I flipped the page, finding nothing useful about werewolf transformations. Honestly, who cares that the first time a werewolf transitions is the most painful experience of their life? Mind you, I didn’t really know that, but since every other transition from then on is practically painless and easy, I don’t see how that really helps me.

On another note, the edge of the paper sliced into my finger. I flinched away from the sharp sting that followed, bringing the finger to my mouth as blood welled in the shallow cut. It’s ridiculous to think that after nearly dying twice in the past week or so, I’m more concerned over a tiny paper cut.

I found the section on werewolf pack bonds. Now, this is what I was looking for.

“A werewolf pack would be nothing without their Alpha.”

Well, this was off to a rather unpromising start.

“While rogues are, of course, a rare occurrence, the complete and utterly loyalty to a pack Alpha is what makes a pack function as well as it does.”

Oh, does it? Pretentious fuckers. I skimmed over the next few paragraphs, looking for something that was actually useful.

“An Alpha’s word is meant to be automatically followed, no questions asked. Though the effect these orders have differ depending on rank, it’s nearly impossible for an Alpha to be resisted at all.”

Well, that’s rather inconvenient. Thought it would be rather useful for an Alpha since it prevents any uprisings or rebellions from within the pack. Hopefully, Elijah never finds out about our half-baked plan, since I’m the only one who can completely throw away anything he says. Well, and Rebecca, since she’s a Lycanthrope, not a Shifter.

Speaking of which, I wanted to know how this works in a Lycanthrope pack. Not because it was important to know for my revenge plan, but because I was simply curious. Since Rebecca and I were inexplicably friends now, I wanted to know more about her... species. I flipped to the table of contents and found the page number for Lycanthropes.

“Lycanthrope packs don’t have the same blind loyalty and bonds as a Shifter pack. They instead rely on a pack system that resembles that of a human government, with the positions of a traditional pack. The Alpha position is earned through blood, meaning that to become the Alpha of a Lycanthrope pack, you must kill the current Alpha. After that, they elect a Beta, who doesn’t gain power, but respect. The entire system is run on respect and trust. Any orders that the Alpha or Beta gives out aren’t always going to be followed. Though this leads to the potential of rebellion, many Lycanthrope packs are content.”

Actually, that kind of system does sound familiar. In some books, werewolf packs gain a new Alpha through killing the previous Alpha in combat, though a lot of the time, they’re still unwillingly bounded to the Alpha. While Shifter packs were more like a monarchy, it’s intriguing to know that there are werewolf packs out there with no magical ties to their leader. After all, Lycanthropes are werewolves too, despite the fact that they were born human.

A thought occurred to me. What if Rebecca reached out to the Lycanthrope packs that lived outside of the city? Like Rebecca, they were all human once, which meant some of them had to have at least an ounce of sympathy for humans. What if we convinced them to join our side? That way, we’d have the numbers to take down Elijah and his supporters by force. It wouldn’t be a complete death sentence to go against him.

Of course, the only problem with my plan was that Lycanthropes have no control over their transitions, and when they do, their human consciousness blacks out and they become completely animal. But perhaps if I got Opal to reach out to various witches and wizards throughout the city? Maybe they’d be able to help the Lycanthropes control themselves, if only for a short while.

It wasn’t a perfect idea, but it was an idea nonetheless. I made a mental note to ask Rebecca about this next time I was alone with her.

Which reminded me that I still had one more thing I needed to research. Flipping back to the table of contents, I glanced at the page number for the mate bond. While I had a sapling of an idea for Evangeline’s plan, it was valuable to know if Rebecca’s scheme had a chance of working.

“The mate bond between werewolves is their most sacred and important feature. Every wolf has a mate, their other half, but finding them is a difficult task that can take years. A mate can only be found on the full moon when a werewolf’s senses and abilities are strongest.

“The way a werewolf knows they have found their mate is by their scent; it’s strong, detailing the smell that is most comforting to them. Once their mate has been scented out, it’s instinctive for a werewolf to go to them and protect them at all costs. Often, a mate can be visually identified as the most stunning person they’d ever seen.”

Something tickled at the back of my mind. I lifted my head up from the book, blinking for a moment as I reoriented myself and briefly rested my head on the back of the chair. It was completely dark outside now, the full moon peeking in from the corner of my window. Something in my chest tugged at me, which I passed off as sympathy. By now, Rebecca would definitely have shifted. With a brief sigh, I turned back to the page.

“From then on, a mated pair feels tethered to one another, though the bond isn’t yet complete. Over the course of the next moon cycle, their bond intensifies and grows stronger, urging them to complete the bond. By the time the next full moon arrives, it’s nearly impossible to resist the impulse. The vast majority of mated werewolves have the bond completed before this point.

“The sexual tension between them heightens to a point. Once it’s acted upon, the completion of the bond is fairly simple. One werewolf, usually the male, will bite the other in the junction between their neck and collar bone, basically Marking them as their territory. In other cases, where the mated pair is of the same sex, it’s instinctual as to who will do the Marking. Some mated pairs bite one another. Others do not. It simply depends on the relationship.”

Excuse me? Biting? Yeah, no thanks. I will forever be grateful that I’m not a werewolf.

There was another tug in my chest, this one more insistent than the last. I was temporarily reminded of the night when I tried to seduce Isla Roy, but batted the thought aside. It was probably nothing. My thoughts still tickled.

“While mates feel tethered and bound together like their souls are combined as one, it doesn’t fully impact their emotions. While they’re unable to stay apart from one another, an action that causes physical pain, it’s entirely possible for a mated pair to feel things other than love and affection.

“A mated pair has a certain amount of influence over the other, to a certain extent. If one wolf is of a higher ranking than the other, the other wolf is elevated to their position; therefore, they can exert no power or pull rank on their mate.”

Ah. So Rebecca’s plan had a chance of working after all. Good to know.

“But while emotions remain independent, it doesn’t mean their bodies are. A mated pair engaging in sexual activities with anybody other than their mate can cause pain ranging from severe discomfort to agony for both mates; it’s often worse for the one committing the act. On the flip side, a touch between mates, even something as innocent as brushing hands, feels more heightened than it would otherwise.

Wait a minute.

“It’s next to impossible to physically harm your mate. Even the thought is too upsetting to think about; though, in the extremely rare case where one’s mate isn’t a werewolf, they’re able to shove away this feeling to some extent. Even so, in these cases, it’s still impossible to actually severely injure or kill your mate.

“If your mate does die, the response varies depending on the completion of the bond. If you haven’t yet met them, you still feel the death, but it feels more like the passing of one’s pet than anything. Still, the surviving werewolf will live without a mate but are free to form relationships with others without having to worry about leaving them.

“If you’ve met the mate, but have yet to complete the bond, their death feels more like the passing of a close friend or family member; it’s upsetting, can often cause deep depression, and takes time to process. These wolves are also free to form other relationships but are often haunted by the death of their mate.

“If the bond is completed, their death is guaranteed to send you spiraling into a deep depression. It feels like half of your soul has been severed, and there is no healing from such a loss. These wolves turn into a shadow of their former selves, and often preferred to be left alone to wallow in their misery.”

I shut the book, my mind spinning. While the textbook had taken a rather dark turn, I wasn’t focused on that too much. I’d experienced enough loss and grief in my lifetime that I barely batted an eye.

No, I was thinking about the other things I’d learned. Other factors that are a result of a mate bond.

Scent.

It was intoxicating, surround me, and I could have gotten drunk on the scent alone. It was the kind that made you feel like the world was perfect and pure. It was almost comforting, though the force of it sent a shiver racing up my spine.

They rolled their shoulders back, sending another wave of the deliciously wonderful smell rolling over me.

Pine trees and springtime.

I had smelled it before, too. On my way back from Riverdale Park, right before I met Simon and he told me that Elijah was on his way to investigate. And then the second time was when I’d been driving past the park with Opal and Kyle when Elijah was definitely there.

And there was the fact that I didn’t have a scent. At least, one that nobody could detect. Except for Elijah, who’d described it as lavender.

“And you have quite a nice smell. Delectable. Reminds me of lavender. I must say, Reese, it’s made me more eager to meet you in person.”

That could be nothing. Perhaps he uses a nice-smelling shampoo that just so happens to be my favorite scent. It’s possible that he could only detect my scent since he’s an Alpha.

But then there were the other things.

Attraction.

He was definitely, without a single doubt, the most attractive man I’d ever laid eyes on.

That shouldn’t have been true. I’m a Hunter. Werewolves are supposed to be attractive. In fact, Nicholas Randon looked quite a lot like his brother, except his eyes were blue, not green. I don’t recall being anywhere near physically attracted to Nicholas. Or stunning Rebecca, for that matter.

And there was also the touch factor.

I relished in the contact. I tensed every one of my muscles so I wouldn’t do anything rash. Like, say, jump his bones or something else that was rather inappropriate for the moment - or, ever.

The sensation came from his hand resting on my chin, and it was quite a pleasant feeling. A warm feeling spread across my chest, traveling down, past my stomach...

Every point his hands brushed against as they slid down my arms and onto my waist felt heightened, my skin tingling and flaming with his every touch.

I’d always hated how much I liked his touch. And I’m not particularly fond of being touched.

There were other things, too.

The fact that he wanted me dead for killing his brother, then changed his mind so abruptly was enough for alarm bells to explode in my head.

The tension that’s been steadily increasing between us through the two months I’d been here.

The pain in my chest when I kissed Isla.

The way our gazes were always drawn together.

The words he whispered next to my bed when I was recovering from Keith’s attack. I’d thought it was a dream, but what if it wasn’t?

The final puzzle pieces clicked into place, and I was left with only one lasting thought.

Well, fuck.


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