In the Shadows

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Blowing off steam was something that had become a regular practice in my life. Even when I was younger my temper would always explode if I kept my anger bottled up for too long. My mentor, Coda, liked to call it 'rabid squirrel mode' whenever this happened.

It was my father's alpha blood in me.

I had gotten better over the years. Controlling my temper and letting things just slide off my back was becoming easier.

Too bad my mate always pressed my damn buttons.

I tried to be understanding, really I did. He'd been really stressed ever since we set up camp here in this new pack. Hakota was making good on his threats about the borders. Nine werewolves had been killed for disobeying his rule about the Red Zone borders. The werewolves from the other packs were trying to find new alphas and failing with the power struggle that was happening. It only put more work on Hakota's shoulders. He didn't have time to deal with our 'relationship' and even when I was trying to be agreeable he was so snippy. He'd snap at me, I sass back at him. He'd growl at me, I'd growl back. Then there was a shouting match that ended with one of us storming out.

That's pretty much how my last week has been.

It didn't help that Little Cloud's accomplices we're breathing down my neck, constantly reminding me to distract Hakota. Honestly, I didn't know what they were complaining about. Hakota had a million and one things to focus on besides his mate. He was as distracted as he could get. Besides I deserved a break from this 'being friendly and trying to make things work' act.

I don't know what Fate had been on when she decided to pair Hakota and I together as mates but it had messed with her brain. We did not fit with each other in any way. We would never be able to maintain a stable relationship let alone have love bloom between us. Our bonding was a recipe for disaster.

Speaking of matches made in hell, my eyes spotted a certain little werewolf who was trying—and failing—to sneakily make a get away from his punishment. The sandy blonde kid, and I say kid though he was probably as old as me, had zero stealth skills.

I followed him aways, trailing behind him as he jumped from cover to cover until he was about thirty meters from the forest line. He never once detected me. I guess I could add perception to his list of non existence skills. He was currently taking cover behind a wagon stacked high with pelts that needed washing and storing due to the closing of the winter season in which they were no longer needed. The kid was a scrawny beanpole that looked as though a slight breeze would carry him away.

Okay maybe my sour mood was making me a bit harsh. He had some muscle so that if I saw his profile he wouldn't become invisible. He was nothing like the warrior wolves, hell I had more muscle than him. He wasn't a bad looking kid, he was cute in an unapproachable, ever pissed off, brooding teenager kind of way.

I watched as his head poked around the wagon one more time before he starting to rise from his kneeling position to make a dash for the tree line. Honestly, one would think he was trying to escape a prison. I didn't think cleaning out the fire pits was that horrible. I mean there was thirty of them in the main camp that he was instructed to clean and the standard of completion was nothing less than spotless. Syn's exact words were, "Not a speck of ash is to be left. If you have to lick it clean then do it. Your tongue can do something other than spout out bratty little comments."

Before he could get one step I grabbed his shoulder. "Where do you think you're going?"

The werewolf jumped, whirling around to face me. "Damn! You nearly gave me a heart attack! I thought you were that lycan."

I rose a brow, my grip tightening on his shoulder as I steered him back towards camp. "If I was Syn, I wouldn't have let you get this far."

"You were following me the whole time?" He exclaimed indignantly, not even bothering to resist me as I lead him back towards the main hub of the pack.

I glanced at him out of the corner of my eye, "There's really no nice way to put this suck at being a werewolf." I gave him the hard truth. At least I had soften my words a little. Coda had told me countless times how worthless I was in a much meaner way.

The kid crossed his arms and started to pout—this being the reason I called him a kid. He acted more like a twelve year old than an adult. He needed a strong parental figure in his life.

"Look, Turkey right?"

"Terrin actually," he grumbled.

"Yeah, look Turkey, take the word of a veteran apprentice." My fingers dig into his shoulder, halting us as we arrived back at the fire pit he'd abandoned. Terrin scowled at the wheelbarrow filled with ash and charred remains of logs and a few glass bottle shards. I turned him to face me. "Just take your punishment like a man. Do it, do it right," I added warningly, "and move on. There are way worse things Syn could have made you do for mouthing off at him like that."

Terrin kicked a small rock unhappily. "People say bad things about the lycans all the time. Why do I gotta be the only one punished for it?"

I flicked his ear causing him to whine, "because none of them are stupid enough to vocalize it to their face you dimwit."

"You yell at Hakota all the time," he pointed out as he jumped into the fire pit and pulled out the metal grate at the bottom that he would have to wash with all the others.

I stared down at him, ignoring the metal grate he held out for me to take and place in the second wheelbarrow stacked high with about twenty others. I shoved my hands in my pockets. "He's my mate so that's different."

Terrin muttered something under his breath as he tossed the grate on the ground at my feet before climbing out of the four foot hole.

"Just try and keep a low profile," I advised him. "You've been grating on Syn's nerves ever since you spoke out at the Red Zone. If you behave and keep your mouth shut," I said giving him a pointed look, "I'll try and get Syn to lay off." We were all just stressed. Hakota was stressed, so he was grouchy which in turn made me grumpy which only made Hakota more irritable which made all of the lycans pissy from dealing with a pissed off Hakota.

Terrin groaned, earning an eye roll from me. "You don't get it," he told me placing the grate on the stack. "Syn is a raging pain in my a–"

"Think carefully on how you want to end that, Twigy." Syn's voice rumbled behind me.

Terrin's eyes only narrowed. Crossing his arms he sassily ended, "neck. You are a raging pain in my neck. Not to mention a pompous, arrogant bastard with the worst haircut I've ever seen."

I sighed. Had this kid been listening to anything I said?

"Oh, is that all?" Syn asked dryly, folding his arms.

I gave Terrin a shake of my head to dissuade him from his next words. "You have the dumbest name too. Syn." He scoffed, "Who the hell names someone that? What, do you think that your name makes you sound all macho and mysterious? I think it just means your existence is a sin." Oh boy we were sailing into dangerous waters. Couldn't Terrin feel the prickle of power around us? I could feel Syn's irritation rolling of him in waves. If that wasn't a good indication of his darkening mood, the look on his face ought to have been clue enough. Yet Terrin just plowed right on. I could probably add lack of judgement to his ever growing list. "You think that because you're a lycan that makes you better than everyone? Well it doesn't. Lycans are pathetic. There's only nine of you left for a reason. You don't have the right to come in here, kill our alphas and take charge."

"You've insulted my hair, my name, and my kind. Anything else you want to add?" Syn was growing increasingly irate as was evident through his tone.

"Just because you're a lycan, it doesn't give you the right to order me around. I'm a werewolf! I can shift, not like those humans. They are supposed to be doing these chores not me. I'm supposed to be learning how to fight and hunt!"

I choked down a laugh. Terrin was not a warrior that was for sure. A prey hunter...maybe. I found it adorable how he was glaring up at Syn who was at least a foot taller than him. He was a grumpy teenager who decided they just hated everyone because they could. He certainly had a defiance problem and needed an attitude check. He kinda reminded me of me. Perhaps that's why I took pity on him. Poor kid need all the help he could get. Syn had it out for him since day one.

"Besides, I'm eighteen damn you! You can't treat me like a child!"

"Oh yeah?" Syn didn't balk at the challenge.

I saw the determination harden in his eyes. "Syn," I began, about to stop him from whatever he was planning.

The lycan turned to me with an innocent look. "Don't worry Rabbit. I just need to teach Twigy a lesson."

A smile quirked up my lips at the nickname Syn had bestowed on the werewolf. Twigy was a good name for the scrawny little scrap. I'd still stick with my nickname of Turkey though.

Syn scooped up the boy and tossed him over his shoulder, banding an arm around Terrin so he couldn't escape. I watched in amusement as Terrin pounded on Syn's back hurling curses and obscenities at the lycan keeping him hostage.

"There's that wagon full of pelts to be washed. You can wash those while you wash out that mouth of yours."

Their exchange was all sharp retorts and insults.

Was this what it was like with Hakota and I? I hoped not. I didn't want to seem that childish.

I watched as Syn set the kid down on his feet. Like a warden, the lycan watched the werewolf huff and puff as he set to work of washing the animal hides. He struggled to climb to the top of the stack to reach the first of the hides. Syn wouldn't help him, if anything I think he was shouting at Terrin to be quicker about it.

Standing here watching them, I once again found myself wondering what Syn had against the kid and why the kid hated the lycans so much. I figure both could have to do with their pasts.

A flicker of suspicion entered my mind but I flicked it away.

Not now.

There would be a time to ask those questions soon.

Besides, I think I already knew what the answer would be.

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