In The Shadows

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Eighteen

A warm hand pressed against my cheek, causing my sleep to vanish in an instant. I shot up, clutching the blanket tighter to my body and looked into a set of green eyes. Roshan cocked his head, a lock of his red hair falling into his eyes. He looked untamed and wild in his brown leather pants and simple white shirt, his fiery red hair messy and unkempt as if he had just woken up.

I sat up, my back pressed against the small ledge protruding from the fireplace. Roshan was crouched down, the balls of his feet supporting his weight. His arm rested on his knees with his hands dangling lazily between his legs. "Are you hungry bhanrigh?" He asked, calling me that foreign name again.

I nodded and watched as he twisted around, never moving from his crouched position and pushed a bowl from around the back of him, across the floor, to in front of me. The warm and delicious aroma of chicken filled my nostrils. I inhaled deeply before guzzling down the bowl as I had been provided with no spoon, not that it mattered to me.

I wiped my mouth with the back of my hand, glancing up at the lycan who was observing me intently. "Why are you so kind to me?" I demanded, the words coming out like more of an accusation that a question.

"Because no one in your life has ever been." He answered simply.

I clutched the bowl tighter in my hands. "That's not true." I denied immediately. "My father has always been kind to me, as have Grey and on occasion Coda."

He shook his head which was only a slight movement to the right. "They have treated you well, not kindly. They protected you and sheltered you, trained you. They have never cared for you, though. Do not mistake obligation for kindness."

His eyes weren't just observing they were stripping me bare, somehow tearing every thought and emotion from my mind. One in particular at this moment. Loneliness.

"You are scared of my assessment. You fear you are seen too easily." What I think was a smile quirked on the sides of his lips, the slightest bit of teeth peaking through them. "Fear not, bhanrigh, no one can elude my perceptions."

I could only stare back at him as he looked at me. Neither of us said anything, we just looked at the other as if they were a complex knot, or a puzzle to be put together with missing pieces. I soon felt a second set of eyes burning into me. Shifting my eyes upwards, I saw a young woman with thick white hair, pulled in a plated braid to the side looking at me with distrust and resentment.

She raised her chin as our eyes met. "Roshan." She called out to the male in front of me.

The lycan stood, taking my emptied bowl with him and walked over to the woman who waisted no time into reprimanding him in lowered tones, speaking rapidly in a language I did not recognize. Roshan pulled his arm from her tight grasp gently.

"Do not judge what you do not understand, Innoko. Even she does not yet see the lies her life has been."

The female, Innoko, threw me a hateful look and stormed from the room, ignoring Roshan's calls. He shot me an apologetic glance and left the room after her. At least, that was why I thought he had left.

When Hakota entered not even a second after Roshan had left, I knew my mate had commanded the other male to go. His eyes pierced mine from across the room. I turned my back to him, pulling the blanket higher on my shoulders, dismissing him.

He sighed heavily, already knowing a fight between us was brewing. "Do not continue with your vow of silence against me, little wolf."

I humphed, signaling I had every intention of doing just that.

"I think you'll find it's worth listening to what I have to say." His voice flowed over me.

I snorted but said nothing further. Hakota took it as a gesture to continue. "I'm here to offer you a deal little wolf." My ears perked up at that. "I can see you do not want me as a mate as much as I don't want you."

I frowned, not sure why I felt a pang of rejection at his comment. I quickly shoved it away.

"However, I need you to ensure the survival of the lycan race. So my deal for you is this: you let me mark you which will enduce your heat after a period of time. After the duration of your heat you are free to be with other males and roam where you please."

I sensed a 'but' coming.

"But," and there it was. "You will be compliant when I come for you during your heat and you will give me each pup you bear."

My brain slammed on the brakes, halting every other thought coursing through me. "Excuse me?"

He decided to ignore the snotty tone I was using and just repeated himself. "I need you to produce my offspring, as you are the only female who can do so." The blaggard! He was despicable treating me like breeding stock, thinking that was all I was good for!

Then under his breath he muttered, "Ironic considering the point of your existence is to kill my kind but now you will be the one to replenish it."

I scowled at him, wishing I could burn a hole through his head with my glare. He wasn't doing himself any favors by furthering his insults.

"Let me put it this way." He attempted to explain further, as if I didn't understand what he was saying. I couldn't believe this arrogant, chauvinistic, scoundrel was supposed to be my mate! "You let me impregnate you," He pressed on, completely oblivious that each word exiting his mouth only made me angrier and angrier. "And then give me the pups once they are born. Then you're free to do whatever you want afterwards."

Steam had to be coming from my ears by now. I was livid that he thought he could use me this way and I'd agree! Hakota mistook my silence for miscomprehension rather than the many ways I was plotting his death in my head.

"You will be my surrogate." He further clarified.

I was so angry I was speechless. "You—You—!" I was scrambling for a word horrendous enough to describe him. Hard headed, egotistical, domineering, vile? All of these words that popped in my head didn't seem to do him justice. "You prick!" I finally managed to spit out a word. "I'm not a lycan producing machine for you to use!"

Something flashed in his eyes, and I was about to demand what he had been thinking when he spoke. "I know that Cleo." The words were ground out through his teeth. I guess he didn't take kindly to be insulted and was trying to keep his calm throughout the rest of this negotiation. "But you don't want to be around me, and I don't care much for your presence either. You want freedom and I want pups. I'm trying to compromise."

Well when he put it like that... I thought about it for a second, it was a fair deal he was offering. But I had no intention of ever bearing his pups. However if I rejected his deal, he might start believing that I wanted to be around him, that I wanted to be his mate. And if he thought I was willing to be more compliant he may try to mark and mate me even sooner. With the pull of the mating bond and his advancements I'm not sure how long I'd survive. My father had told me how dangerous it was to resist it for so long. So finally I came up with my demand. "No marking."

His brow furrowed. "You won't go into your heat without my mating mark. Then I don't get what I want."

"Actually," I drew out the word, "that is incorrect. Werewolves can't go into their heat without the mark of a mate. Hunters go into their heat after they accept a connection with a male of their choosing. It doesn't necessarily have to be with a mate."

My father had drilled everything I needed to know about reproduction just so that I was aware of all repercussions and how exactly it worked. He wanted me to spin everything to my advantage and I had one thing Hakota desperately needed. My womb. I had control over my fertility, and if he ever wanted pups from me, he was going to have to comply with my demands.

"That's ridiculous." He replied, inclined not to believe me.

"It's not actually. Werewolves stem from Lycans and it's the Lycans who can't create offspring with anyone but their single mate. The werewolves have more leniency as they may encounter several mates within their lifetimes. Hunters, however, branch off the werewolves and not the lycans. Therefore only a connection has to be present between a male and a female to induce a heat. You could mark me but that won't cause my heat. The connection has to be accepted by both the male and the female."

"You're making this up."

"I'm not." I said, standing from the ground, the blanket wrapped tightly around my shoulders, creating a make shift cape of sorts.

"You will be marked." He said as if he was a judge giving my sentence. He was wrong if he thought there would be no debate with me because I still knew something he didn't.

"What's the point?" He didn't answer to that, only stared at me intently with his mesmerizing eyes, trying to gage the truth in my words. Then it finally dawned on me. I raised a finger. "Oh no." I said the words slowly in disbelief. "Oh, no, no, no." I wagged my finger back and forth, placing a hand on my hip and tilting my head up and away from him, biting my lip as I laughed sardonically. "If I'm marked by you, the other males will stay away." I shook my head, not believing I was stupid enough to think he'd grant me some freedom. "You have no intention of letting me be with another male. You lied to me!"

"I did not lie. I said you were free to be with any male. Its not my problem if none of them will approach you."

"The only ones who would even dare would be my other mates! But it's in your right to challenge them if you marked me first! You'd kill them all before they were able to lay a finger on me!"

He shrugged. "like I said, not my problem."

"Not your problem? Not your problem!" I shoved him back with my hands, unfortunately that was like me trying to move a wall that had been cemented into a mountain. I didn't even move him a nanometer. "What's even the point of offering me freedom if I don't even get any! You'll always be looming over my shoulder wherever I go!"

"At least you'll have the freedom to choose where you go."

I would have crossed my arms, but I was too busy holding the blanket in place. I settled for rolling my eyes, knowing it would annoy him. It always annoyed males for some reason. "So what, like that makes up for the many times you're planning to knock me up?"

"Why do you say that as if having my pups is a disgusting thought?" His voice was edged with a warning, telling me to watch my next words.

Unfortunately, I never did know when to keep my mouth shut. "Because even just the thought of it sickens me." I spat. His pupils bled into his irises, turning them black, about to stain the whites of his eyes before he yanked his wolf back. His hands clenched, but I caught the tremble within them of his barely concealed rage.

"You are my mate!" He snarled, the last word bit out between clenched teeth. "To have my pups should be your goal in life."

I scoffed, throwing the blanket off my shoulders and stabbed a finger into the center of his chest. "Stop treating me like an animal, Hakota. I'm not some female you can push around and force to submit. I will not be your toy and breeding stock. I am a person, who has thoughts and feelings just like you. Having pups is the last thing on my mind, let alone if they're yours. Why would I want to continue your lineage when you obviously don't care about my family's? You killed my mother, why should I do anything you want?"

"You don't even know what happened." He hissed.

"I don't need to know exactly what happened." I told him glaring up into his eyes. "You've shown me more than enough. I know what you are, how you treat your own mate. You've muzzled, collared, caged and humiliated me, I do not think you're above murdering someone who turned their back on you."

"You've defied me at every turn!" He argued. "I did not do those things for my own amusement."

You could have fooled me." I mumbled but he heard me anyway.

His hands locked around my upper arms, his nails digging into my skin. "I'm a purebred lycan, Cleo. An alpha one at that. I'm over two hundred years old and well respected. Your complete disobedience and defiance forces me to act. My wildness will not tolerate disrespect, especially from my mate."

"What did you except Hakota? You're mated to a hunter. The purpose of my existence is to eliminate your kind. My goal in life is to kill you, to avenge my mother. Not to give you a family. You don't deserve a family Hakota not with the way you treat me."

"You don't treat me any different!" He shouted back, shaking me angrily.

I looked up into his eyes, jutting out my jaw, clenching it tightly. "How can I respect you, if you can't respect me?"

Hakota was at a loss for words, finally understanding just what exactly I was. What we were. The moon goddess must have truly hated us to pair us together. The old and the new. Enemies by nature. Two alphas who refused to submit to the other. One of us would need to bend or break for the other to rule.

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