In The Shadows

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Nine

The alpha remained standing, looking at me while my gaze stayed trained on the books he had harshly dropped on the table. I pulled the top one off the stack and untied the leather strap that was wrapped around the red leather cover and carefully opened the ledger, the spine cracking as it was opened. The pages were old and very worn, tinted yellow from age and the sides of the pages no longer straight.

Incantations and symbols decorated the pages, a language and writing I did not know. The sketched pictures were the only clue that gave me an inkling as to what the book was about. There were math equations scribbled over the pages, formulas and experiments scrawled under the images. There were pictures of claws and teeth, measurements drawn out underneath them. Hair and fur were somehow cemented to the pages without making a mess.

"This is about us," I said, "hunters." I flipped through another page and grimaced at the image of a cut open corpse, labels across the organs and arteries. "Who wrote this?" I demanded and turned another page. More images of dissected corpses, corpses of my race.

"The Lycans. When we first came into existence they wanted to know everything about us. What we looked like inside and out, how we were able to defeat them as easily as they defeated us. They wanted to know about our venom and immunity to silver so they experimented on live bodies. They didn't just kill us, Cleo, they tortured us, like a specimen to be cut open while still alive."

"Where did you get this from?" I asked, shutting the journal and pushing it far away from me in disgust.

"The same place I got the others. We raided one of their castles and I grabbed these before we burned the place to the ground."

"How long ago?" I asked, knowing it had to have been a long time before I was born.

"Nearly two hundred years ago."

"You were just a pup then." I said, surprised he had even been on a raid in the first place.

"I was an apprentice at the time, yes, but my father was with us and he took me along. I was a good fighter and the other warriors were there as well. Besides our numbers were few, my father needed everyone."

"And the other two?" I asked, reaching for the blue one with gold engravings on the cover.

"Read them yourself, they are pretty self explanatory."

Sitting back into the couch, I flipped open the next book and half the pages nearly fell out. I inhaled sharply and grabbed at the pages before they spilled on the ground and were out of order. Once I had them situated, I examined one page at a time. The first hundred pages were filled margin to margin in ancient text. "Self explanatory?" I looked at my father with a raised brow.

"After that."

I set the broken off pages aside on the table and looked at what remained bound in the book. "It's genealogy." I murmured paging through the family trees.

"Not just any bloodline, Cleo, that's the blood line of the lycan royals."

I skimmed through the family tree, paging through until I reached the last name. Hakota Blackwaters. I looked up at my father in question.

"He's not just an alpha lycan he's the last lycan with royal blood." He affirmed. "He's also the one who killed your mother."

At this point I couldn't even find it in myself to be shocked. Every new piece of information just stacked against Hakota, my spposed "mate". Lune sure did have a sick sense of humor to pair us together. "My mate is my mother's murderer." The words came out flatly.

My father's eyes narrowed. "...Yes."

I could tell he didn't like it one bit, and that it was an effort to force out that single word without adding some comment to it. I dropped my attention back to the ledger and left him to his brooding. I didn't like it anymore than he did. Hakota killed my mother, and he had threatened my pack. He had also just stood there and watched the rogues kills me, not caring in the slightest that his mate was being mauled by a few mangy mutts. There was also the fact that I was from the pack of hunters, and we were bred to hunt and kill lycans just as they were us. Learning about what they had done to previous members of my pack was not helping in the slightest.

"The last book Cleo." My father told me.

I looked at the black book that was left, a metal clamp that had sealed it shut had been broken long ago. It was the largest of the books, and the heaviest. I didn't even bother pulling it onto my lap, instead pulling it to the edge of the table and then flipping it open. Everything in it was about lycans. How they came to be, an entire glossary of terms, an index of each section, and a population study that charted the rise and fall of the lycan population over centuries. I ran my hand across the page, flipping back to the index and read off the titles of some of the sections. Strengths of the lycans, followed by the weakness of the lycans, mates of lycans, the goddess and lycans, hunters and lycans, lycans and silver, the list went on. "This is remarkable, dad. Who wrote it?"

"A lot of different hunters documented in it, it was lost until I found it seventy years ago. It's yours now."

My head snapped up. "What? Me?"

He nodded. "It's your textbook. Learn everything you can about them, Cleo. Meeting a lycan is bad enough, being mated to one," he balled his hands into fists, trying to keep his claws retracted, "is something I would never wish on anyone."

"Gee thanks, Dad, you're making me feel all better." I snidely commented, slamming the book shut and turning away from him completely, sulking in my blanket.

He growled at my disrespect but I didn't give two shits. This was my life, my future, and I could say whatever I damn well pleased. "I am not going to sugar coat this, Cleo. He is dangerous, you can't let him mark you, let alone mate you."

"So what dad? Do you want me to hide for the rest of my life?"

The alpha ran a hand through his hair in frustration. "Of course not Cleo, but he's always going to come after you. I just want you to be ready."

"What if I don't want to defend myself anymore Dad?" I replied angrily and felt the wolf within me that had finally calmed down start to bristle in anger in return.

"Cleo." He rebuked me harshly.

"No dad, I don't want to always play defense. Teach me how to take him down. Teach me how to kill a Lycan," A surprised noise came from Coda who was still sitting on the recliner, listening to our conversation. My eyes shot over to the beta. "Let Coda train me for real. I have a wolf Dad, I can do this!"

"Cleo, a lycan can't be taken down by a lone wolf, hunters have a hard enough time."

I leapt up from the couch and slammed my hands down on the table, a wave of pain running up my arms. A snarl burst from my lips and I felt my fingers curl as a set of claws tried to push their way through my fingers. My wolf thrashed inside me, trying to free herself from my control. She was begging for a fight.

Coda was beside me in an instant, shoving me back down on the couch. "Contain it, Cleo. You are stronger than the wild." I tried to leap at him, my fangs elongating in my mouth but he was faster. He had me pinned to the back of the couch by my forearms. He stared directly into my eyes, a challenge the wild within me did not like one little bit. "Enough. Calm yourself." I snapped at his face and he jerked away in surprise, my claws came out and I slashed him across his collar bone, just missing his neck.

Coda hissed as his flesh burned, green oozing from the deep scratches I had made in his skin. He blinked like his vision had been clouded. My father pushed Coda away and let his wolf free. His eyes turned black and he growled at my wolf, forcing her back down, to yield to her alpha. I tired to fight the command, but my bones felt like they were breaking under the effort. My head finally bent and my wolf retreated within me.

Once the haze of anger and aggression vanished I felt my body tremble. My father still towered over me, making sure that my wolf had submitted. My eyes turned to Coda who was looking down at the wounds I gave him. He touched the green liquid and hissed shaking his fingers.

I reached out a hand towards him, "Coda, I'm sorry, I didn't mean–"

He turned his back to me and strode to the kitchen, retrieving a rag and ran in under the water before taking off his shredded shirt and dabbing at the wounds. I hung my head in shame for attacking my own pack member.

"How is this possible?" My father murmured, grabbing my hand and inspecting where my claws had vanished. "Coda, is it...?"

"Yes." The beta's gruff reply came. "It stings like a bitch."

The alpha stared at me, his eyes flying over ever inch of my face before meeting my eyes again. "No." My father denied and spun away from me and began pacing the room. I saw the internal struggle he was having with his wolf to remain calm. "No. This isn't possible. It has to be something else. She can't be—she's not a...no." His shoulders were rising and falling heavily with each breath, fighting the urge to go ballistic.

I was trembling, shaking in fear of myself and what I had done. That my father was this worked up did nothing to ease me and I stayed quiet, remaining huddled in the corner of the couch.

"I don't know how it's possible, Eric, but there is no denying it." Coda spoke up from the kitchen. "It explains why she's so aggressive."

"No!" My father picked up the lamp and hurled it at the wall. I flinched as it shattered and fell to the ground in pieces. The alpha planted his hands on his hips and stared at the ground, taking in deep breaths to compose himself.

"Eric." Coda tried to calm him.

My father raised a hand, stopping him. He closed his eyes and mouthed something to himself. "This isn't right. This is all messed up. She can't be a hunter, Coda. It doesn't work that way."

My eyes widened. Hunter? I was a hunter? But females couldn't be hunters! There had never, in the history of hunters, even been one that was female.

My father laughed bitterly. "You think that's what I am concerned about?" I blinked at him with confused eyes. He shook his head and chuckled darkly. "You have no idea, what this means Cleo."

I shrank back into the couch at my father's foreboding tone. "What does it mean?" I squeaked, terrified by what his answer would be.

"It means, oh daughter of mine, that you will constantly be at war with yourself. You are a hunter, fated for a lycan, your enemy. Your hunter nature will forever want to kill he who draws you in through the mating bond. Half of your wolf will want to claim him and protect him, much like tonight, while the other half will wish for nothing more than to tear his throat out."

My eyes had gone wide and the wild within me whimpered at my father's cruel words.

"Eric, don't scare her." Coda warned softly, sensing my fear.

"Don't scare her?" He snapped angrily, rounding on Coda. "She should be scared! We all should be scared about this! She's mated to a lycan, Coda!"

"Not yet, she's not." Coda reminded him.

"Not yet," my father scoffed, "Not yet," he said again. "What does it matter when?" He hissed the words quietly but harshly. His eyes snapped over to mine before shooting up over my head to Coda. "If Hakota can ever bring her to yield he will have a hunter on his side, to protect him and heal him. He'd be invincible."

"So let her learn, Eric. Let me teach her the way of a hunter. Let me train her so she can kill him."

My father looked at me and I looked back at him, swallowing back my fear. Coda was right. I'd have to kill him, it would be too dangerous if he mated me. Taking him down was the only way I could save my pack and I couldn't do that by running and hiding. I raised my chin and nodded once at my father. Telling him I agreed, that I would do it.

My father let out a heavy breath. "I want her to be the best goddamn hunter this world has ever seen."

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