In The Shadows

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One

Getting in trouble was something I did very well. Usually I would just get a scolding from June, my nanny of sorts, or at worst a talking to by my father. Then I would get punished, like going to bed without supper or having to clean up the sticks in the yard and rake the leaves.

This time though was going to be different. I could sense my father's rage radiating from his powerful body, his alpha side rising to the surface, his irises going black, the color starting to bleed into the whites of his eyes. I hung my head and waited for my father to reprimand me.

The warrior standing next to me shuffled his feet, his eyes focused on the ground and his head ducked in submission. My father's overbearing nature was forcing all of those in our pack to bow in submission, even though that wasn't his intent. "What am I supposed to do with you, Cleo?" He demanded, a deep growl in his throat.

I kept silent because I knew he didn't want an answer from me.

"I've told you a dozen times to stay away from the boundary lines, and this is exactly the reason why." His voice was filled with fury and I knew I would not be escaping this one lightly. "That rogue would have killed you if Grey hadn't been nearby. You would be dead." He spat out the last word, making me and Grey wince. "You are nearly thirteen, this must stop. Learn to obey quickly, Cleo, or you will not like the way I make you." He flicked his head at Grey, "take her to the the house. I'll figure out how to deal with her later."

Grey touched the small of my back and pushed me forwards, even though it was gently, I still stumbled a little. I hung my head as I trudged back to the house, feeling the eyes of the pack members follow me before quickly dipping down to the ground at Grey's warning growl. I scuffed my feet along the ground, kicking a rock that was in my way. "I hate this." I grumbled to myself but Grey's excellent hearing caught my words anyway.

"You may be his daughter, Cleo, but you are still a part of the pack. He's your alpha and you should listen to him."

"It's because I'm his daughter that I'm not a part of the pack." I contradicted him. "I should have started learning last year. I should have been part of the apprenticeship. Instead I'm forced to sit around the house, going to school and learning like a human. To be a human." Tears pushed at the back of my eyes. "I can't help it. I want to explore, I want to be like the rest of you." I stopped walking and stared at Grey's feet. "I don't want to be like those humans. I don't even need to be a hunter, I just want to be a wolf!" The waterworks started and I began to bawl at the unfairness of it.

Grey knelt down, now eye level with me. "Cleo, there is nothing wrong with being normal. You are still a part of this pack, you can still—"

"Watch pups? Help the other wolves cook and clean?" I cried harder, "I want to be a warrior, Grey! I want to protect my pack and instead all I do is endanger it!"

Grey exhaled a breath and propped his finger under my chin. "There is still a chance, Cleo. Maybe your wolf hasn't awakened within you yet. Just give it time."

I flung myself into his arms and sobbed all over him. "I'm three years late! Not even the smallest sign!"

It was normal for wolves to start showing signs at ten years of age. Our hearing sharpened as did our vision, our canine teeth formed and we were stronger and faster. We began training the year after the signs started showing and learned how to fight and use our human bodies. At sixteen we were finally able to morph into our wolf forms. We trained under a master, usually one or two apprentices per warrior until they deemed us worthy to become a warrior ourselves.

Our master was the same for both the human and wolf body training. They taught us how to transition and to restrain our urges and emotions. They taught us how to fight in both skins and to use our skills as hunters to our advantage. Skills I would never obtain or hone. I was as worthless and every other human.

"It will all be okay, Cleo, I promise." Grey hugged me tightly before twisting me around and slinging me onto his shoulders, clasping the front of my legs so that I wouldn't slip off. He carried me back to my house on his shoulders, barging straight past June who was gaping at me like a fish out of water. He brought me straight to my room before tossing me on the bed, causing me to giggle as I hit the soft mattress with an oomph.

I smiled up at Grey, my straight rounded human teeth all showing, the tears now gone. Grey smiled softly back at me, his pointed canine teeth just showing slightly under his lip. "Keep smiling Cleo, don't ever let anyone see you cry." He told me, running his hand over my head.

I grabbed his hand before it could slip away. Looking up into his eyes I squeezed his hand. "Thank you Grey, for saving me."

"I will always trade my life for yours, Cleo. Human or not, you will always be a wolf to me."

His head suddenly whipped around, his head tilting to the side as he listened intently. "I have to go Cleo. Stay here and wait for your father, don't get in any more trouble."

Then he was gone, the sound of the front door opening and closing as he left me alone in my room. I turned from the open door to the mirror of my vanity that was in front if my bed. I turned so that I was facing the mirror, sitting cross legged and stared myself down. I tried to growl, to see if I had a wolf that would respond, but there was nothing except the pitiful noises escaping my mouth that only a human could make attempting to mimic a wolf. I tried again and still nothing. Even though I hadn't expected much, my heart still fell and a heavy weight settled on my shoulders.

It was this foolishness, this desire to be something I wasn't, that got me into trouble. I'd gone to the border to scout, to see if I could scent a different wolf, but I couldn't even scent my own pack members. Still I had gone, hoping today would be the day some of my wolf qualities would show themselves.

I hadn't even heard the rogue that was watching me close by, let alone smell it, but Grey had. He'd been running the borders, detecting any presence that wasn't supposed to be there and he had gotten two. Mine and the rogue's. Before the Rogue could spring at me, Grey was there, tackling it away from me and delivering a strong bite to its jugular, crushing its neck in his jaws and easily killing it.

Rogues were a curious thing. Often times they were the result of wolves that had lost their mates, or pups that had been considered too weak for their packs and were tossed out to fend for themselves. Some rogues, if young enough could be adopted into packs but many times they were too far gone, too feral from spending years alone, depending only on themselves and fighting to the death. This kindest thing to do for the rogue's them was to kill them, and also death was best thing for the rogues that lost their mates. Their misery was what drove them mad. The most dangerous rogues were those who were born into it. They grouped into small four or five member packs and could do a lot of damage. These packs always consisted of only one male. It wasn't uncommon for the male to be challenged and killed, the new male taking over. They craved blood, infiltrating packs just to kill the members and then leave with nothing.

Some packs would lay down their pride and ask my father for help. We were considered abominations and disgraces, monsters even, but we were powerful. My father's pack consisted of seventeen male members excluding himself and fourteen female members, not including me. We had two pups and six apprentices in our packs as well. Although we were considerably small compared to some packs we had a special gene in our pack that existed nowhere else. We were hunters.

We currently had thirteen hunters in our pack, my father included. We were at an all time high. The hunter gene was rare and it only existed in males. Most hunters were already born in our pack as the gene was hereditary although sometimes the females carried the gene but showed no sign of it themselves they passed it onto their offspring. However the hunter gene was unique. It made the wolf born with it, seek out our pack, to belong with his kind and that was in my father's pack. Other hunters could sense the brith of a hunter and would seek out the pup and bring it back to our pack. We killed if we had too, to claim what was ours. Although many packs wanted nothing to do with a pup that was born with the hunter gene, some coveted our strengths. The claws and teeth of a hunter were poisonous to other wolves and usually proved fatal if any deep injuries were delivered. They also had an immunity to silver. Their wolves were smaller, and lean rather than muscular which was considered a fault, an undesirable trait to some wolves and it was true in a way. If forced to use brute strength against a usual werewolf they would lose, every time, but their size made them quicker and more nimble, which made them hard to catch and even harder to deliver damage too. My father was the greatest hunter in history, his wolf wasn't small like the others, he was huge, bigger than normal werewolves, he easily compared to many betas and even some alphas.

It was because my father was a legend that I felt even more worthless. My father was the greatest hunter ever to be seen and I was a worthless human, not even a small weak omega wolf. I felt as though I was an embarrassment to my father, although he never said such words.

"You can stop those thoughts right now, Cleo." His deep voice penetrated my thoughts.

I swallowed and slowly turned to meet my father's gaze. His eyes narrowed at my daring gesture and my eyes immediately dropped to the bed. I should have known better than to look him in the eyes after how angry I had made him.

"Yes, you should have, Cleo. You'll have to learn your place eventually."

My lips quivered as tears threaten to spill over at his harsh reprimand. I hated how he read my thoughts, even more than that, I hated how I couldn't keep them protected away from him. I hated that I was as easy to read as a human.

My father sighed as he read those thoughts too. His alpha slowly retreated back and he turned into my father. "What were you thinking Cleo? Going off alone, all the way to the border? Even if you had detected an intruder, then what? You have no training Cleo, you don't even have the speed to run." His voice was tired, sad even.

"I'll never have the speed will I?" I asked quietly. "I'll never get the training either." My hair fell from behind my ear and fell in a curtain around my face. "I'll always be helpless, no matter what." My father was silent and I knew I was right. I knew in that moment that I would never show signs of a wolf because I didn't have one and I never would. "I'm sorry daddy. I'm sorry that I can't be good enough."

"No, Cleo." He murmured and sat down on my bed next to me, the mattress dipping under his weight. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into his lap, tucking me under him, his chin resting on my head. "Sweetheart, you are the most valuable out of any of the pack members. I will always love you Cleo, no matter what. You are my world and I will never let you go. I'll always protect you, even if you don't want to be protected."

"Even if I find my mate?" I whispered. The females always went to their mate's pack, it was another reason why most of the hunters were already born into our pack.

"Even then, Cleo. He'll have to become part of our pack, I won't let him take you."

I wasn't worried about my mate trying to take me away to his pack, he would reject me, because no one would ever want a useless mate.

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