In The Shadows

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Twenty Eight

Trouble had a way of finding me.

Perhaps I brought it on myself.

This time I certainly had.

Honestly though, how was I supposed to know that "don't move" in this circumstance literally meant that?

Naturally I had simply rolled my eyes at my mate, presuming him to be his pushy overbearing self and continued forward, ignoring his command.

The result of doing so caused me to be swept up into a chain link net. I screamed as I was hoisted into the air, one of my legs going through one of the holes. I continued to scream even when the movement stopped, my heart beating rapidly in my chest.

"By the Moon," I heard Sani mutter, "stop screaming would you?"

"Why is there a net in the middle of the forest!" I screeched, jostling myself around in the net, trying to find a way to free myself.

"Damnit Cleo!" Hakota barked at me, "I told you not to move!"

"You didn't tell me I was stepping in a freaking net!" I defended myself, looking down to shoot a scowl at my mate he wouldn't even see. When I looked down to shout a snarky remark I sorely regretted it. I was at least twenty feet in the air and there didn't appear to be any easy way down. I darted my eyes up immediately so I wasn't looking down anymore, but I think that decision was worse. Hanging above me were branches that had been whittled down into sharp points, looming above me like spears ready to impale me should the thin thread keeping them tied snap. "Oh god, oh god," I started to panic.

"I say we just leave her up there," Sitka volunteered his input.

Hakota gave his beta a warning glare before looking back up at me. "Just...hold on," he huffed, signaling to the twins to follow him.

I had no idea where they went, nor had any desire to check again as I would have to look down. Heights had always been a strange fear of mine. I loved to stand of cliffs and outlooks but that was all on solid ground. This net and unstable places terrified me. There was nowhere for me to leap to safety if I were to suddenly fall. The only way was down.

I heard a curse and swiveled around to where it had come from. More like clumsily flipped myself to the side, both of my hands falling through open spaces causing me to smack my face on the metal net.

"Why are you swearing?" I demanded, "what's wrong?"

"Nothing." Hakota shouted over to me before he began mumbling to the rest of his pack. I waited and a moment later her called up to me. "I'll be back, Frayah and Sani will stay here with you."

"What? Wait!" I called out frantically. "Where are you all going! Why can't you just get me down?"

I was not given an answer.

I could guess the reason well enough on my own though. This was a hot zone, trespassing was sure to be common. "Maybe there should be signs that say, 'The Red Zone Welcomes You' and 'oh watch out for our hidden nets'" I muttered sarcastically to myself.

As of now, I was sincerely regretting my decision to come to the Red Zone. Hakota had warned me there would be blood, death, and fighting but he never uttered a word about booby traps.

The net slowly rotated from side to side. I got to see everything around me but unfortunately all that happened to be was tree branches.

"Frayah?" I hesitantly called out when I hadn't heard anything but the wind rustling through the bare branches, clacking their limbs together eerily.

There was no answer.

"Sani?" I demanded. "If you guys are messing with me it's not funny!"

Still no reply.

I braved a look, scanning the forest floor but found no sign of the lycans.

Damnit they'd actually left me here! Alone!

Well fine then. I didn't need their help, I was perfectly capable of getting out of a net by myself.

Doing my best to stand, I failed several times my feet slipping through the holes. Once I was finally able to balance, I looked up at the top of the net for any opening.

Four iron rings, one from each corner of the net, had gathered together at the top and held the net closed. I was unable to move them despite my prying.

This net was made to keep in strong werewolves, a few of them at a time if need be, there was no way I was going to be able to break my way out.

An idea struck me then. Perhaps strength wasn't the answer here. Maybe I could squirm my way out.

Shifting into my small wolf was a challenge. The net moved with each movement I made, throwing me off balance and ruining my concentration.

When I was finally done, I was already exhausted.

Not really wanting to be in the net for a second longer than I had to be, I stuck my head through one of the holes.

A whimper whined from my throat at the drop.

You've got nothing to be scared of, I told myself. You're practically a cat, just land on your feet like they always do.

Shimmying my shoulders until they too wormed their way through the hole, I pulled my back legs out before I rethought my plan.

Then I was falling at a rapid pace, the ground rushing up to meet me.

Arghhh! Don't land on your head! I yelled at myself, twisting and turning in the air like a cat, trying to get my feet to be the first to land.

I landed on my side, the frozen ground doing nothing to cushion my fall.

I leapt to my feet in triumph, resisting the urge to howl out my victory.

Hmph, who needed their mate to save them?

I was about to shift back but then remembered that I did not have the same luxury as the lycans to shift back with clothes.

Not that I really minded staying in this hide, my wolf skin was warmer anyway.

Lowering my nose to the ground I scented for the lycans. Their scent was faint, I would have missed it had I not been searching for it.

I was surprised to see they had split off about forty paces from me. I followed the strongest scent, that of my mate, making sure to keep my ears pricked for any sign of movement.

After Fang had told Hakota what was happening at the Red Zone, we had left the next morning. The journey down here was silent, a thick blanket of tension settling around the small lycan pack. The anger radiating off of my mate had been suffocating. No one bothered to talk, knowing whatever was said would not diffuse the tension.

I understood why Hakota had been angry. His territory had been encroached upon, stolen and fought over by others. I could clearly remember a time when the werewolves had eyes bigger than their stomach and attempted to take some of my father's territory. They had believed that because we were smaller in numbers, we would roll over and show our bellies. The next time there were trespassers we had torn them all to shreds. The werewolf pack had no right to declare war as it was their own members' fault for trespassing. None of the other packs dared to steal from us after that.

I started to get nervous when the sun set and I still had not caught up to Hakota. I was getting very confused because he was heading further and further away from the Red Zone. What exactly was he up to?

Now that I was thinking about it, this whole circumstance seemed oddly familiar. A lot like the time Hakota and his lycans had herded everyone from my pack into one place.

Oh may the Moon help us.

He was forcing them all into one place! Did he want a blood bath?

I started running, knowing I had to intercept him before it was too late. Lycans were strong but there was no chance that nine lycans could take on a hundred wolves from each pack!

My paws thundered across the ground, picking up speed. Howls erupted from my right. My head whipped to the side and I changed my course, heading for the howls.

Damnit, I was already too late. He was luring the pack back to the Red Zone! I pushed myself harder, trying my best to catch up with them.

When I was about thirty paces away, I could see a wave of wolves chasing after something, my mate no doubt. They were snarling and snapping their jaws, clearly outraged and I began to wonder what Hakota had done to piss them off.

I followed behind them, knowing I was powerless to stop Hakota's plan now.

Suddenly, I was tackled from behind, a surprised yelp escaped my mouth.

I was pinned to the forest floor by one massive paw. I didn't need to look to know who it was.

I immediately shifted, flipping around to face my mate who was also in human form.

"How did you even get out?" Hakota demanded.

I frowned, noting he didn't look happy about the fact I was free.

"I actually looked for a way out since apparently you didn't even bother to try." I rose a brow in challenge. "You wanted me to get stuck in that net, didn't you?" I crossed my arms, but doubted I looked very intimidating sitting naked on the ground while he towered above me.

He didn't even bother to deny it. "I needed you somewhere safe and our of the way."

"Were you even going to come back for me?" I sneered, sulking.

"Of course, after this was all delt with."

"Why didn't you just tell me?" I demanded climbing to my feet, brushing off the twigs and dirt.

"Would you have listened?"

"No," I answer truthfully.

My mate gave me a pointed look. "Exactly."

"But I could have helped!" I said, a bit hurt he thought I'd be more of a liability than an asset.

"This is between the lycans and the werewolves."

"Oh, so because I'm a hunter you can't trust me?" I spat out the words without thinking. I was being a little unfair, considering I did plan to betray them, but for some reason I felt like an outsider.

"I didn't mean it like that Cleo and you know it," Hakota sighed.

We were silent for a moment, me biting my lip and him staring at me waiting for a reply. "I thought the werewolves were chasing you."

He shook his head, "No, Syn is taking care of that."

"And what about you?" I questioned.

Gripping my tiny shoulders with his two large hands, he gave me a firm shake. "Just stay out of the way, Cleo," he told me. I rolled my eyes. "I mean it Cleo," he said firmly, "I don't want you hurt."

"I won't get hurt!" I protested, irked he thought me to be some helpless female in need of protecting.

"You promised me that you would let me handle this." He reminded me.

I opened my mouth to deny it but then with a huff I closed it, knowing I had made that promise. "Fine," I conceded.

Hakota nodded before bolting through the forest after the werewolves, leaving me by myself.

No longer in a hurry, since apparently I wasn't need or wanted, I slowly made my trek back to the Red Zone.

I was just about to shift when someone called me.

"Hunter."

I spun on my heel to see an older woman with grey hair that was curled into tight springs. Her face was wrinkled with age, a scar running across the bridge of her nose.

"Little Cloud?" Was all I needed to ask.

The woman gave me a brisk nod. "Though he never mentioned you'd be visiting."

"It was an emergancy." For some reason I didn't want to disclose information about Hakota's plan.

"Can we trust you?" The old woman asked, her knowing eyes boring into me.

"Yes," I gritted out. "I know where my priorities lie."

"Good. Keep his attention. We need you to be a distraction. He needs to be chasing you, not power." Then after eyeing me up and down she added, "stick to the plan."

"And what exactly is the plan? I haven't been told much about it." I knew better than to not be wary of Little Cloud, of her. They could be using me as I was using them.

"Don't worry about the rest of the plan. Do your part, seduce the alpha. When you do that, then we will divulge the rest of the plan to you."

"How do I know you won't take all the glory for yourself?" I snarled.

"You want to be the one to kill Hakota?" She sounded skeptical.

Raising my chin I replied, "I have something to prove." To myself, my father and my pack.

Her critical eyes seemed to soften. "Very well." Her gaze drifted off in the direction my mate had left. She jerked her chin. "Now go and do your best to stop the impending massacre."

I didn't need any other urging. In a flash I was off, tearing butt back to the Red Zone.

It didn't take much to find them, the smell of many scents only grew stronger. I was brought to a clearing, much like the one in which I had first met Hakota in my own pack. When I arrived, I was shocked by the sight.

A sea of werewolves had gathered, well over four hundred in numbers. They were curved in an arc, a half circle of eight lycans facing them.

Then dramatic as ever with his entrances, my mate stepped from the tree line his voice carrying clearly over those gathered. "Now that I have you all here," his voice was sharper than any claw. "Can someone explain to me why the hell there are claims being staked on my territory?"

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