In the Shadows

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Twenty Five

The deep baritone of Hakota's voice objected to Sitka's words. "We need her, Sitka. If we kill her that's it. No more lycans, we end the line."

"Fine then! Let our race end. We need you Hakota and we can't afford for the female to do something stupid where you end up dead."

"Cleo is harmless, she's all talk. If she wanted to 'kill' me she would have tried by now. The mate bond won't let her harm me."

"Jesus Hakota pull your head out of your ass! She's the daughter of Eric Farland. We all know he had no problem kil–"

"Lower your voice, Sitka," Hakota growled, "and do not forget who is alpha here."

There was a moment of silence and I could just imagine the face off they were having. I was disappointed when Sitka didn't finish his sentence about my father and instead said, "Look Hakota, you need to get rid of her. We can't risk the chance of your death, all of our deaths because the mate bond is messing with your head."

"Nothing is messing with my head. I am perfectly capable of making decisions and–"

"You decapitated that alpha without a second thought! You've been pissy for days, sulking around the house. I know you don't want to hear it, probably won't even believe me but it's already starting to mess with you. She's a liability. We cannot underestimate Eric Farland. He's the one pulling strings, Cleo is his puppet and there is nothing you or I or anyone can do to change it." The lycan beta ranted in a snippy voice that reminded me of the way human females talked during their menstrual cycle. I was lucky that as a werewolf I never had to deal with that. It only happened to us after our heat had passed without being impregnated.

"Just give me time to convince her," Hakota's voice brought me back from my wandering thoughts. "We need her to go into heat. If she doesn't, none of our females can." My ears perked up at that, "You know how long Frayah and Innoko have wanted pups. They never can if my mate doesn't enter her heat."

I backed away from the door, floored by this new information. I'd never heard anything of the sort. If the alpha's female didn't entered her heat, none of the females could? Did my father know this? Probably not because otherwise he never would have let me go. He would have just said 'you're never allowed to mate with that Lycan, find a nice werewolf instead.'

Hmm. This could definitely become an advantage. Hakota seemed dead set on getting me into my heat solely for the sake of the females within his pack. Sitka might prove to be a problem if he continued to convince Hakota it wasn't worth it in the end. A part of me was releaved. My father had wanted me to take out Hakota to leave the rest of his pack vulnerable so the other hunters could swoop in and dispose of them. But now that didn't need to happen. Their race would simply die out if Hakota was dead. No alpha—no alpha female. No alpha female—no heat. No heat—no pups. No pups—no more lycans.

"Hakota is going to be pissed you eavesdropped," a low drawl came from behind me.

Whirling around I came nose to nose with a lycan I didn't recognize. His silver hair was buzzed on the sides the top pulled back into a short man bun. He had a shadow of a beard and a straight nose. His lips were pulled thin as he smirked slightly. He was devastatingly gorgeous and by the look he was giving me, he knew it all too well.

"Uhhh," was my reply.

The lycan moved around me fluidly, placing himself between me and the door. Pressing his back against it, he leaned back casually, crossing his arms.

"Did you get lost, rabbit?"

My face soured at his nickname. "Don't call me t–"

When he smiled I forgot what I had been about to say. His pearly white teeth were perfectly straight and his canines sharp. "What was that, rabbit?"

"I–" I couldn't think with him looking at me like that.

He pushed off the door and held out his arm to me like a gentleman would a lady. "Let's take you back to where you are supposed to be. I smelt that delicious food, it'd be a shame to let it go to waste."

I was helpless to do anything other than take his outstretched arm and let him pull me away from the room. He was unnaturally warm, I could feel the heat of his skin through his clothes, or maybe that heat was coming from me. The lycan steered me towards one of the wooden barstools and pushed me down, moving around the island to the stove, removing the lid, steam wafting up from the stir fry.

Sani and Frayah were sitting at the table, eating from the plates they'd made up. They were holding hands as they quietly conversed with each other, seemingly completely unaware of us.

"Blegh," The lycan in front of me made a face at the public display of affection looking over his shoulder at the couple. He withdrew a plate from the mahogany colored cabinet. "There are children present," He teased them, shooting me a smug look, as he set the plate down and spooned himself a portion of the leftover food, giving me the rest which was really only a half portion.

I bristled, glaring at the plate he slid across the counter until it rested between my hands. "I am not a child!" I exclaimed indignantly looking up from the meager meal on my plate to see the lycan shovel a forkful of my food into his mouth.

He pointed the tines of his fork at me, "Hmmm, let me see," he then tapped the end of the fork to his chin mockingly. "Hakota is over two hundred, Sani is nearly two hundred, as is Frayah." The fork waved around wildly with every name and age that exited his mouth. "Roshan is estimated to be over four hundred, Sitka over two hundred, myself over two hundred," he finally decided to start chewing and swallowed down the food in his mouth so that I thankfully didn't have to listen to his muffled voice. "Innoko as the baby of our pack is over a hundred, and the twins Keni and Denahi also over a century and a half. So that makes you—at a measly nineteen years—a child in comparison."

I humphed, not able to refute his claim, but not agreeing with it either. Stabbing at my food with the fork I was handed, I muttered under my breath about being surrounded by old people.

The lycan laughed through another mouthful of rice and vegetables, "Oh Cleo, your father is around two centuries as well."

My expression only soured at the mention of my father. He seemed to be a go to for the lycans whenever I was arguing or trying to make a point, or even just whining. Quite frankly, I was tired of it. Why couldn't he be forgotten for just a few moments? My bitterness was projected on my own go to for belittling and mocking. He was none other than my esteemed mate. "Yeah, and my mate is older than my father, how can that not be a turn off?" I wanted to face palm myself for that idiotic response but the roar of laughter from the lycan only had me rolling my eyes instead.

Now the lycan was sobbing with laughter, clutching on to his stomach as he hunched over. "Damn! You are sassy. No wonder Hakota doesn't want any of us around you. You really know how to hurt a male's pride. I don't know if there is anything about Hakota that could be a turn off to other females."

"He's arrogant, rude, and pouted like a frickin' child for nearly a whole week. He's hardhead, stubborn and hot tempered. He doesn't have an understanding, caring, or romantic bone in his body! Everything about him is a turnoff!" I easily spouted off a list of everything wrong with my mate.

The lycan was grinning at me with a gleam in his eyes. "Perhaps you'd rather have a little fling with me? You're spicy and I bet you'd be wonderful in be–"

"Don't you dare finish that sentence Syn, or I'll be forced to rip you one and then Hakota will have his turn." Sani who had been quiet up until this point was looking over the back of his chair, an unamused expression plastered on his face. Frayah had turned as well, shooting Syn a warning look.

Syn only chuckled as if he wasn't getting the death stare from the female lycan. "From what I hear, I have a better chance with her than our alpha does."

"Shut it Syn." Sani growled before turning around and dismissing the mischievous lycan.

I shot Syn a sidelong glance as Frayah offered me a small smile before turning her head back to the table. "Syn?" I asked, twisting my head to examine the lycan. "How on earth did you get that name?"

Syn shrugged, no longer looking so jovial.

"Oh come on!" There had to be a good story behind this. "You named yourself didn't you? Because of your sinfully good looks." Syn said nothing, just pushed the food around on his plate, the fork emitting a shrieking sound that made my teeth hurt with every stroke across the surface of the porcelain.

Frayah and Sani had gone ridged, obviously listening to every word but refused to turn around.

I faltered slightly, now hesitant to continue pressing. Was the story a dark one? One Syn would rather not remember or repeat? An awkward silence filled the air and I cleared my throat uncomfortably, stabbing at the vegetables on my plate, but not actually eating them.

The lycan pushed away his plate and folded his arms on the counter top, resting his chin on his hands. "The brothel madam thought it would be funny." He said after a moment.

I did a double take, "what?"

Syn pursed his lips, his brow furrowing as he thought back. "I was sold to a brothel when I was young, didn't even have a name until they decided to use me as more than housekeeper." I shuddered knowing exactly what he'd been forced to do. "They said I had a face that could cause wars. One look at me and anyone was overwrought with the sin of lust. Hence the name Syn." He looked saddened and I could only imagine how he must feel having been named and inadvertently mocked for something beyond his control. "They hired me out to the old kings and nobles for a pretty penny. I was there for a long time, stuck in slavery without the knowledge of the power I had. My face was a curse that brought me nothing but misery and a name."

"Why didn't you change your name?" My voice was soft as I asked him the obvious question. I knew I would want to forget everything about a past like that so why keep a constant reminder?

"I hate that my name is just a joke to others, but it's a name that means something to me. While some use it as a reference to lust, Hakota gave it a different meaning. Countless of sins had been committed on me, drove me to hate everything about myself, about life and everyone. He told me to keep my name as a reminder that I am not a sin, I am not a wrong or abomination, that my beauty is not an excuse for others to be cruel and give in to their desires. My name stands for what I overcame, that I could look past revenge and death to find solace. Being a killer would make me no better. I learned to stop hating myself for something that couldn't be helped. Hakota taught me how, he showed me the good in people, in the world, in living. He gave meaning to my name, and that is what I wish to remember and honor."

I swallowed back the tears threatening to flow from his moving and revealing story. Here was someone who had truly been through a lot but with the help of a family was able to still love and be loved. He could still put faith and trust in others and to me that was a miracle.

"I know Hakota has done some bad things," Syn admitted quietly, "he destroyed lives, and even ended them," he looked up at me, his eyes glowing with reverence for his alpha. "But he's also changed lives and given them."

The lycan backed away when he finished his piece, his face flushed as his cheeks turned a bright pink color. He hadn't meant to sound so protective and defending. He wasn't even sure why he had told her all of that but it was too late now to stuff his words back into his mouth. He could only hope things would get better between Hakota and his mate.

Ducking his head, Syn quickly removed himself from the kitchen leaving me with two stunned lycans and a thousand more questions to add to my ever growing list.

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