In the Shadows

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Twenty Seven

The lycans hosted a large party in honor of the twins, Denahi and Keni. It was the anniversary of the day they'd been inducted into the lycan pack. This was the first time I ever had any interaction with them. They were always quiet, never speaking whenever I was around. At first I had felt slighted as if that was their way of shunning me but today I had learned it was because of something much different.

Denahi and Keni couldn't speak. They communicated with gestures and sign language. They were very socially awkward, probably from their inability to communicate with strangers. They were glued to each other's side, never wandering more than ten meters from each other.

I found it adorable how they interacted with each other, nudging one another playfully and making signs only they understood. The twins were very much alike in looks. They both had a reddish brown skin tone with dark hair and dark eyes. They both left their hair long, often tying it back while putting braids and beads in it. Keni had more of a boyish look than his twin, the only way I could really tell them apart, appearance wise. Personality wise it was obvious who was who. Denahi was always so serious, looking very grave and unamused, only showing his brother that smile of his. Keni seemed a lot more laid back, always smiling and trying to interact with the others while Denahi seemed content to stay back and just observe his brother and those around him.

I was standing next to Hakota, as he talked with some of the werewolves. That was a new thing between us. Instead of avoiding each other like a plague we were now like friends. It had relived the heavy tension always surrounding us and everyone was less cranky as a result. Even Innoko had looked at me without glaring daggers. Sani had spoken to me without a reason and in a tone that didn't suggest that he wanted me to just drop dead.

Sitka on the other hand still gave me the cold shoulder. I could feel his eyes watching me, waiting for me to mess up and expose my true intentions. Now that Hakota and I were buddy-buddy he seemed even more on edge.

It was one such time now that he was glaring holes through my head. I turned to him, smiling and waved. Sitka didn't turn away or try to hide the fact he'd been staring, if anything his eyes narrowed further. Keeping my eyes trained on his, I wrapped my arm through Hakota's and leaned against the alpha, resting my head on his arm. Instinctively Hakota's arm untangled from mine, and instead it snaked around my shoulders, pulling me closer in to him.

I looked up at my mate, but he didn't even seem to have realized what he had done, still conversing with the werewolf alpha, Fang.

I glanced once more behind me to see Sitka stomp away angrily, going towards the deer carcasses turning over the large fires.

"How long do you intend to stay here?" Fang asked Hakota. There was no malice or threat just genuine curiosity.

"A while, there are certain things that need to be taken care of."

Fang's eyes dropped to me. There was no question of what or rather who the 'thing' was that needed to be taken care of.

"Ahh." Fang nodded as if he understood. "I wondered when you would start having pups." I nearly choked on my spit, my whole body ceased up. Hakota shot me a glance out of the corner of his eye. "Why has your pack waited for so long? I was a pup when I first met your pack and I already have two of my own, yet any member of your pack has yet to have any pups."

I looked up at Hakota who was looking down at me. He licked his lips and for a second I believed he would tell Fang the truth. But then he cleared his throat and answered, "there hasn't been a good time. We were still wandering across the world and the lycan wars had just ended. We weren't in a good situation to raise pups."

I stared at my mate who had lied through his teeth, almost believing his reasoning myself.

"Well, I am sorry then to throw a wrench in your plans but I have unsettling news to relay to you." Hakota didn't need to ask him to continue. Fang shuffled his feet, looking at the ground, "the packs are fighting at the red zone borders. Mine included."

Where I was only confused, Hakota seemed well aware what this meant and by his dark expression he didn't like it one bit.

"This is my territory. No one has any claim to it. I instated the alphas and they know my rules. And yet," Hakota took a threatening step towards Fang, "it seems that every time I go away, when I return it's the same damn issue where those alphas think they are above my rule." Fang gulped and took a step back. "I have no problem reminding them just who is alpha here. The red zone belongs to no one but me. The Northern Territory, the Eastern Territory, the Southern Territory, and the Western Territory all belong to me. So explain to me, why the hell any of the packs think they have claim to what is mine?" I grabbed Hakota's arm, pulling him back before he decapitated yet another alpha.

"Hakota. Fang wasn't the alpha, remember?" I shot a look at the current alpha and he gave me a grateful smile.

My mate huffed, snatching my hand off his arm and holding it captive in his own. "It seems we have a little trip to take around the territories to remind them of their place." I squeezed his hand.

"It appears so," I said. "Come with me an enjoy the festivities. Don't ruin the night for Denahi and Keni, it's about them not you," I added in a teasing tone, trying to diffuse the tense atmosphere.

My mate leaned over and pressed a soft kiss to the top of my head, surprising me. Even though he'd been showing little signs of public affection ever since I had begun my plan to 'seduce' him it was still hard to get used to. My entire life I'd never seen signs of affection in my pack. It just wasn't acceptable, that was supposed to be private between you and your mate. Here with the lycans and the werewolves it was no big deal.

"You're right," Hakota said, "I'll deal with this later." With that he practically dragged me away from the alpha, leaving me to stumble after him as his strides were twice as long as my own.

We were intercepted by Sitka before we made it to our destination. "What did Fang have to say? You looked ready to blow your lid."

The reminder had Hakota grinding his teeth and I sent the lycan a glare for riling up my mate again.

"The packs are fighting at the Red Zone again."

Sitka's eyes sparked with fury. "The Red Zone! Did our message last time not cut it? Perhaps a few more heads must roll before they will understand."

Back and forth Hakota and Sitka vented about the stupidity and arrogance of the werewolf alphas. When I'd finally had enough I raised my hand. "Uh...what the hell is this Red Zone?" I asked making air quotes on the words red and zone.

The lycans turned to me, forgetting I had been standing there. Sitka looked ready to snap at me that it was none of my business but Hakota decided to answer anyway, earning a glower from his friend. "The Red Zone is what we call the border where the territories meet. There is always fighting about those borders but it really belongs to no one because I said so. There is a sacred pool there that is touched by the moon every night and it is said, that if you submerge within it and the Moon finds you worthy, you will learn a great many things and be gifted with talents."

I could tell he expected me to laugh but I'd heard of this pool from my father and the books he had given me. What Hakota was telling me had proven true on multiple accounts.

"Can we go there?" I asked him.

My mate's brows shot up in surprise. "You...want to go there?"

I smiled at him, "Of course. Why wouldn't I want to see what all this fuss is about?"

"Then there should be no complaining on your part about how I handle the situation," Hakota told me bluntly.

Rolling my eyes I tapped his nose, "Fine. I promise not to ridicule you for your unnecessary violent solutions which are the result of your short temper."

Sitka mumbled something under his breath that was something along the lines of, "That sounded a lot like reprimanding right there."

Choosing to ignore him, I instead shouldered past the salty lycan, towing my mate along with me. Our last social gathering had ended in a disaster so I wanted this one to make my night, not end it. From the moment we'd arrived at the fire pits, Hakota had been bombarded with concerns, issues and the curious probing from the werewolves. We had yet to actually enjoy the night.

Sitting on one of the wooden benches that over looked the fire ring, I didn't allow my mate the chance to decline my company and tugged him down with me. How could I seduce him if he was never alone with just me? This was a golden opportunity to form a strong base for his perception of me and my change of heart. He needed to believe my new found 'feelings' were sincere.

I leaned into his side, more for warmth than my other purposes. Spring was right around the corner, the beginnings of grass seen poking through the patches of snow, but it was still dreadfully cold. Huddled up against my mate, practically cuddling with him I was content to just stare at the dance flames, liking how they leapt and sparked. Through the glow I could see the other werewolves laughing with the lycans among them. I hadn't seen Little Cloud or any of his followers and wondered why they hadn't come.

Wasn't this a perfect opportunity to spy on Hakota?

"What are you thinking about?" Hakota's deep voice rumbled low in his chest, sending vibrations through my body.

I immediately tensed, saying the first thing I could think of. "Why can't Denahi or Keni speak?" My eyes were glued to the twin lycans who were immersed in a game with their fellow lycans and a few werewolves.

Hakota let his head rest on mine, his cheek pressing into the top of my skull. "Rogues cut out their tongues," he said softly. I could only guess those rogues had suffered a horrible fate at Hakota's hands from the way he was more solemn than enraged.

"Why?" My own voice was quiet, not wanting my sound to drown out the chirping of the crickets, snapping of the fire, and white noise that was the other conversations around us.

"Because they could." Was his simple answer.

His words were dead, devoid of any and all emotion.

I studied the twins. Wondering how they have moved past the disability with such ease. That must be the power of having a friend, family. I watched their hands rapidly sign to each other no doubt strategizing so they could win the game,but no one else had any idea what was being said between them.

"It's good that they have each other," I looked up at my mate who was already glancing down at me. "I am glad they have you and your pack."

My mate could see through my words, knowing exactly what I was thinking. He cupped my cheek with one hand, looking deep into my eyes so that I could see how serious he was. "If you want that, Cleo, all you have to do is reach out and take it."

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