In the Shadows

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Twenty Six

Knocking my red game piece into Frayah's white one, I made my next move, making us now even as I took away her game piece. My opponent frowned thoughtfully, rubbing a finger across her full, peach colored, lips. Her mix-matched eyes scanned the board looking for the next most strategic play.

"You know," I murmured, sitting back against the foot of the couch, running my fingers through the bear skin rug that was laid beneath the loveseat and coffee table, "you can just say whatever it is that's on your mind. We've played three games now, I think that's more than a sufficient build up."

Frayah didn't answer me but instead moved her piece left of my obvious upcoming attack. "Your move."

I sighed dramatically, pushing myself forward, resting my elbows on my knees as I sat crosslegged on the floor. For some reason we'd decided here was a better place than the table. "Is it because of what Syn told me?" I questioned as I moved further down the board.

Frayah easily snatch one of the pieces I had missed. "He's never told anyone but us about that, and that was after years of being together. Even Roshan told you a bit about his imprisonment." The words burst from her lips and I gathered she'd been dying to say them since she approached me with the game.

Shrugging, I retreated on the board, my fingers dragging the carved piece backwards. "I didn't expect him to spill his guts, I was as surprised as you were."

"Can't you see how important this is? The pack already accepts you, we confide in you, trust you." She moved a random piece forward without even looking at it, more devoted to this conversation now than winning.

I snorted, "have you talked to your mate recently?" I picked up my piece ready to claim victory but Frayah knocked all of the pieces off, preventing my winning claim and pushed the board game aside.

The female then snatched the figurine from my hand and chucked it uncaringly across the room. Grabbing my hands, she pulled them into her lap. "You want to be here. To be part of this for real—don't deny it," she snapped when I was about to object. "I can see it in the way you talk with Roshan, how you laughed and joked around with Syn this morning after he spilled his guts. They way you treat me like a sister. Even Innoko doesn't treat me the same way." Her eyes were burning with determination to get me to see it her way. "You make us feel comfortable. You so easily brushed aside what Syn told you and didn't treat him any different or make it awkward. You don't ignore Roshan's ramblings, but rather try and understand them. You don't tell me to go away when I want to do something with you. You would be a perfect addition if you would just allow yourself to be."

Her words were tempting, but I knew it was impossible. Half of the pack hated me, hell even my own mate didn't seem to like me very much. As nice as a family sounded I already had one counting on me. My father, Grey, and Coda believed in me. They entrusted me with the hunter legacy. I couldn't betray them for another.

Here, wasn't permanent. I would go into my heat, provide the lycans with pups, and then I'd be cast out because of my hunter blood. Hakota had basically said this to Sitka, to my face even. Here I was trapped, not allowed to roam and wander where I pleased. I was given no responsibility, no place to feel like part of something.

At home I was given a purpose and plenty of freedom. If I could just do this—the one thing I'd been trained for—I'd be exalted, worthy of my pack and father. Yes, Hakota was my mate, but what did that really mean? Just because of a label I should forget everything I'd worked for and start from scratch towards a new goal? One I wasn't even sure I wanted? Hakota hadn't made an effort, hadn't given me any reason to believe this could work. He just blamed me for not dropping everything and jumping in feet first. How could he expect me to chase after his love and affection when he hadn't attempted to do the same?

The whole thing was a farce. Hakota wanted to use me and I wanted to use him. Why was it deemed okay for the prior but not for the latter? He was trying to achieve his goals and I was trying to achieve mine, I had no reason to feel guilty. Granted I had to kill him to complete my goal and he didn't but the roles could easily have been switched!

Besides, what did it matter if he was my mate instead of some other random werewolf? I'd killed rogues before and that had been perfectly acceptable. They'd hurt others, killed families. Hakota had killed my mother, so why was it wrong to kill him too? Simply because he was my 'mate'? I didn't know him any better than I knew those rouges so how did that make him different from any other stranger? It didn't.

Hakota was nothing to me other than an obstacle in the way of my victory. I'd do what I must to over come him and in the end I'd have my long awaited trophy.

"—o?...Cleo?" Frayah's murky voice caught my attention and I returned to the present. "Are you alright?" She asked me worriedly, feeling my forehead for a temperature.

I gently brushed her off, "Just lost in thought."

The female lycan didn't look convinced and steadily rose to her feet. "I'm going to get you some water. Maybe a snack too."

Before I could object she was already gone. With a heavy sigh, I started scooping up the game pieces and putting them back in the box, folding down the board first and then separating out the colored pieces. I brought the box back to the hall closet where I'd seen Frayah retrieved it.

I titled my head up to see the top rack where it belonged. Standing on my tiptoes I tried to push it back on top of the other games with the tips of my fingers but it didn't quite reach the top of the stack. Jumping a little, I thrust it forward only to have it slide back down into my splayed out fingers. I cursed the lycans and their freakishly tall height as I continued and failed to put it back.

Suddenly a much larger hand reached above me and easily put the game back in its place. I twisted around and smacked into the very firm chest of my mate, who was standing closer than I anticipated.

I rubbed my nose as I took a step back. "Hmph, you weren't going to laugh at me first before helping?" I muttered, unable to help being rude. It was my defense mechanism I guess.

Hakota looked down at me, choosing to ignore my comment. The air around us grew awkward. We hadn't spoken in over a week and now neither of us really knew what to say. Hakota had been pretty open about how he felt about me that last time we talked and we both waited for the other to bring it up.

"I'm sorry." "Are you going to apologize?" We both said spat the same time.

Hakota blew out a breath, "I'm sorry," he repeated, "for what I said to you."

We waited for a minute, a pregnant silence between us until I slightly nodded my head in acceptance of his apology.

"Come on a walk with me," Hakota suddenly said.

My eyes slid to the kitchen, looking for Frayah to come save me but the sneaky little devil must have seen us and left. A shame because I actually did want a snack.

My eyes snapped back to Hakota. Now what was I supposed to do? I could always just tell him bugger off and then we'd get in a fight in which we'd both not speak for another week.

Seduce him.

Cloud's voice echoed through my thoughts.

I pursued my lips. I suppose the first step towards that was tolerating each other presence and not getting into an argument every time we spoke.

Clearing my throat I nodded once firmly.

My mate couldn't hide the obvious look of relief on his face. I raised a brow, prompting him to lead me away. He hastily spun around and guided me outside to one of the many trails leading behind the lodge before I could change my mind.

The breeze was crisp and cold, carrying the scent of pine and sap. We walked down the trails twigs snapping and snow crunching underfoot. "I heard that you and Syn met," Hakota started off.

"We did," was all I answered my voice almost lost to the wind.

"Do you think differently of him, knowing where he came from?"

The wind wiped my hair into my face as I turned to him, "Do you actually mean that or do you mean 'do I think differently of you for saving him from that life?'" I waited for his answer, noting the hurt that flashed in his eyes. I pulled a strand of hair from my face, tucking it behind my ear. Stuffing my hands in my pocket I said, "I don't think any differently of him." Continuing my path down the trail I was surprised to see it led to a cliff ledge, a large boulder overlooking the valley the mountains created.

Climbing my way up the rock I was content to just sit there and overlook the valley, the mountains covered in snow, the evergreen pines still green against the white blanket. Hakota made his way up beside me and together we sat in silence. For once it wasn't uncomfortable or hostile. It wasn't to piss the other off, it was nice.

I watched Hakota for a long time, noticing the way his muscles were always tensed, how he sat rigidly like he could never just relax. His jaw was clenched, his blue eyes starting off into the distance, his dirty blond hair ruffling in the wind. He was beautiful in every sense of the world, a hard beauty that had been crafted and designed by life. The scars he had didn't ruin him, they were part of his overall beauty. He didn't look cruel like my father or always angry like Coda. He was just...him.

Nudging him with my knee, he looked at me. I flicked my head to signal we could go. He jumped from the rock waiting for me as I stood and looked once more over the valley. He owned this. The world belong to Hakota. Everywhere he went he was king. I wanted that. My father wanted that.

Turning, I saw his offered hand. His expression betrayed nothing, but I could tell he expected me to reject his assistance. Instead, I grabbed his hand, allowing him to help me down from the rock. He moved to release my ensnared hands as soon as my feet hit the ground but I kept a firm grip on his large hand, entwining our fingers. I pretended not to notice his look of surprise.

"Do all of your pack members have a bad beginning?" I asked the alpha as we started to make our way back.

"After the wars, it was just Sitka and I left of the packs. I knew there had to be more out there, hidden away from the world, not even aware of what they were. I knew they wouldn't be like Sitka or I, but broken and most likely in pain. Eric made sure he killed all of us he could find, but he wasn't willing to search until the ends of the earth like I was. Most of them were in bad situations when I found them. They were exploited and abused, none of them deserved what happened to them."

It made sense. They were the last lycans, they'd escaped the genocide by being where no one would think to find them. They were taken for another's personal gain and here I was ore pretending it was the end of the world to be given a babysitter. "I've been thinking about what you said about me not being a princess that you stole away."

"Cleo I didn't mean–"

I held up a hand. "No Hakota. You meant everything that came out of your mouth. And even though it could have been presented in a a nicer way," I shot him a look, "I agree with most of your points. I came here willingly, it's not fair of me to make you a villain. Besides maybe I should make my own judgement and decisions rather than just following my father's orders. Who is he to say this can't work? What proof is there that I'll tear myself apart from wanting to love you and kill you?"

Hakota's eyes flashed with victory, no doubt thinking he finally had a shot to allow him to mark me and send me into my heat. I could see his plans already forming as the gears in his head twisted and turned coming up with the best way to get me to bend to his will and desires.

I hid my face from him, concealing the smirk that crept on my lips. He thought he would be seducing me so he could get what he wanted, not knowing it was really going to be the other way around.

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