In The Shadows

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Thirty One

When I finally got Syn to stop tormenting Terrin, I was able to convinced him to escort me around. I didn't want to look like a loner, besides with Syn around I had someone to talk to. We talked about menial things, I did not bring up the obvious question yet but I already knew the truth.

We were packing up some food for a picnic that I invited Syn on. He agreed to bring me to the best spot in this territory in return. I had the closest friendship with Syn. Frayah was nice and all but she was so quite and polite that it was awkward to be myself around her. Syn was much more rambunctious and devious so I enjoyed his company more.

"Where did Hakota slink off to?" I asked the lycan, while packing the last of the sandwiches in the backpack. I zipped it up and slung it over my shoulder looking up at Syn who was sitting on the counter top. I hadn't seen my mate since yesterday afternoon and usually he would have tried to talk to me by now.

"He went to watch borders," Syn replied, not missing a beat as he jumped off the countertop.

I followed him to the door, my hand gripping the strap of the backpack on my shoulder. "For over twenty hours?" My dry tone told the lycan I didn't believe him.

Syn shrugged as he held the door open for me, locking it behind us. "You really pissed him off, Rabbit. I would refrain from mentioning the possibility of other mates around him."

Okay so maybe I had been trying to goad my mate into another fight with me. It was the usual between us. Me being a hard headed hunter his being an egotistical lycan. Exchanges about our fathers, about the war between hunter and lycans. He had really been in a mood last night because he then told me to leave if I hated him so much. He said I didn't belong here with them anyway. Of course that had infuriated me. Who was he to tell me that lycans were too good to associate with me? In reply I had told him that maybe I would because there was sure to be better mates for me out there than him. He'd looked ready to blow a gasket but instead of taking my bait he'd only shot me a poisonous look and stomped out of the house.

We really did act like children.

"I wasn't aware I should sensor our arguments to spare his delicate feelings," I grumbled while following Syn eastward towards some trials that I had yet to explore.

Syn chuckled and slung an arm around my shoulder, pulling me tight into him in a side hug. "You'll be good for him Cleo. You both just have pride issues."

He ducked as my hand whizzed over his head as I tried to slap him. He laughed and danced away from me while I only rolled my eyes. I planted my hands on my hips and cocked a brow at him. "Honestly though Syn. Where is he?"

The lycan linked our arms, pulling my arm through his and patting my hand. "He's an alpha and a lycan besides. You wounded his pride and he needs a while to get over it."

"We are never going to survive if he needs a day to cool off every time I insult his male ego."

The lycan squeezed my hand. "I honestly think you've come a long ways. It seems like just yesterday you were a tiny little wolf cub ignoring his offer of food." I grimaced at the memory of those long days locked in the kennel. "I'm serious," Syn exclaimed. "Now you can actually hold civilized conversations...most of the time," he added at my flat look. "You even hold hands every once in awhile."

I pulled my arm out from his, not oblivious to the fact he'd avoided my question. "He's with that female, isn't he?" My tone was more venomous than I would have preferred but just the thought of this female that had caused so much trouble just by the mention of her was enough to put me in a bad mood.

Syn groaned, hastening his strides to catch up with me. "She's a snake Cleo. She's always tried to sink her fangs into him but Hakota has never let her. He's trying to make it clear that she is to stay away from you and not bring up their past."

"Oh how fantastic," I snipped now even more ticked off. "They have a past that needs hiding. Lovely."

The silver haired male blanched at my response, realizing he'd told me more than I was supposed to know. "Just trust him Cleo. He's trying to make you guys work and despite what you may believe he's not stupid enough to let Sky mess this up for him."

I turned to him sharply, loosing my footing on the steep trail and falling into him. Syn's eyes widened in surprise as he caught me. I pushed off him, keeping hold of his hand as I lowered myself down the eroded trail that had a sudden drop off. "You mean he needs us to work," I corrected him. "He needs me to like him enough to let him mark me. He needs me to tolerate him. He needs me to want to be with him. He needs me to agree to a marking and mating."

The lycan jumped down to the considerably lower part of the trail, following behind me as I made my way down the trail, my hands growing increasingly tighter around the backpack straps. "Cleo, what are you talking about?" Syn called after me.

I ducked between two boughs of a fallen tree that blocked off the path. "I'm talking about the damn marking!"

My companion jumped over the tree, easily clearing the tree like it was a mere hurdle. "Of course Hakota wants to mark you. You're his ma–"

I twisted around thrusting a finger in his face. Syn jolted back as my finger almost stabbed his nose. "Why don't you all stop hiding things from me? Stop keeping your alpha's secrets and tell me what the hell is going on. If Hakota wants us to work he should know that all relationships need a foundation of trust. He can continue lying to my face and the rest of you can veil your words but I'm not ignorant to the fact you all lie to me."

"We aren't lying to you," Syn replied weakly. He couldn't even meet my eyes as he said it. "I trust you," he said quietly.

"Are you gonna tell me what's going on between you and Turkey then?"

Syn's brows furrowed in confusion, "Turkey?"

"Terrin."

Syn went rigid before swallowing thickly. "Oh, Twigy."

"Why are you making him hate you?" I pushed. I constantly had to hear it from the other lycans about how scared mates were and I should be more appreciative of Hakota but it seemed I wasn't the only one who had an aversion to them.

Syn rubbed the back of his neck. "So you know, huh?" He asked sheepishly, bitting his lower lip.

"I don't know Syn, do I?" I asked while looking up at the rock wall that climbed above me. The trial ended here but I had a suspicion the adventure did not. Clipping the backpack straps together across my chest, I started to climb the rock wall, digging my fingers into shallow grooves and ledges. "Tell me what it is I know," I grunted as I made my way up the rock.

Syn followed me, scaling up the wall behind me. "Terrin is my mate," he whispered but I heard it loud and clear. My boot dislodged a few rocks, sending them showering down on the lycan who muttered a sarcastic thanks.

"So what's the problem?" I demanded, heaving my body to the top of the rock. I pulled up my legs behind me and stood on the edge, offering a hand to the lycan who needed no assistance. The male grabbed my hand anyway and I 'helped' to pull him up. "You guys are always preaching about the scared mate bond so shouldn't you be ecstatic to have found him?" I said while dusting myself off, and then unclipping the backpack that was uncomfortably tight.

Syn rubbed his arm awkwardly, not replying.

"What, you don't want him because he's another male?" I asked while taking out my hair tie and shaking out my dark strands.

"No!" Syn quickly denied, franticly waving his hands. "No, I don't care about that."

My fingers raked through my hair a couple more times, combing through the knots. "So...?" I hedged.

"I don't..." He trialed off looking up at the bright blue sky. Wispy white clouds dotted the expanse. He then started off, pushing aside shrub branches. I was right behind him, careful of the thorny plants I was walking through. "I don't think I can be a mate," he finally said as we came into a huge meadow at the top of a ridge.

I looked across the wide area, able to see down into the valley, pine trees standing tall below. Snow still covered the ground up here, white and brow mixed together in a muddy blanket. The grass was stiff and dried out, dead beneath my feet, but I had no doubt in the summer the grass would be lush and soft. I would have to come back sometime to brush my hands brushing the tops of the wild grass that would come up to my hips. It would remind me of home.

"Why do you have such a ridiculous notion in that head of yours?" I questioned Syn, flicking him on the nose. "I think you are amazing, much better than Hakota. I'd trade you for him any day."

Syn gave me a wry smile, laughing softly. "Oh Cleo." He shook his head and trailed across the meadow.

"What?" I frowned, hurriedly walking after him. Damn lycans and their long legs. I caught his hand and pulled him to a stop, then pivoted in front of him.

Syn looked at the ground, "I'm a ruined soul. I can't love someone like a mate should." His eyes rose up to meet mine, "After being subjected to that brothel, being bought for my body, being sold for it..." his eyes fluttered down, his lashes brushing across his cheeks.

"Love and sex are two different things, Syn." I told him, placing my hands on his cheeks. I nudged his face up, getting his liquid amber eyes to look into mine. "You can love someone without having sex and you can have sex without loving. For you, sex doesn't equate love. If you explained that I'm sure he'd understand. I mean I not sure he'd want to be a virgin forever," I smiled thinking of the spunky werewolf, "but give yourself some time to become comfortable."

"It scares me," Syn admitted in a small voice. "I feel like the mate bond is another purchase for me. Like I don't have a choice. I don't want Terrin to feel that way either. Like he has no choice, no way out."

"Then court him, Syn." The lycan pulled back from me, looking unsure. "Come on Syn. Give yourselves time to get to know each other, to like each other. Be friends first and then work your way up to it. The mate bond can go screw itself. Choose to fall in love with him in your own way. Ignore everyone else and do it your way. Who says you have to instantly tell him you love him and would die for him? Who says the moment you meet you have to indulge in affection and start a family? The way I see it, the mate bond is just a suggested match. Take it or leave it, but at least give it a chance."

When I was finished Syn was staring at me with wide eyes. Damn, maybe I should take some of my own relationship advice for myself.

I waited, watching Syn's expression for an answer. Finally he nodded once. Just once but damn it was the most resolute and determined nod I'd ever seen. A huge smile spread across my face. I was glad I was finally being useful. "Come on then. Let's get to this miraculous view."

Syn took off down the ridge and I sprinted after him. We didn't stop until he skidded to a stop right at the base of a huge redwood tree.

I looked around confused. "Um...Syn?" We were in the middle of a forest, nothing extraordinary about it, just lots and lots of trees.

Syn pointed and I followed his finger, looking up and up and up.

"Oh my," I breathed. Syn backed up a distance and then took a running leap at the tree, latching onto the lowest branch and climbing his way up. "Here we go." I told myself and followed him up.

When I reached Syn, slinging my leg over the branch so that I straddled it, I finally took in the view and what a sight it was. I could imagine what a bird felt like while sitting here, staring across the vast expanse of earth that disappeared past the horizon. "This is pretty amazing," I told Syn.

Slinging the back pack off my shoulder I unzipped it and pulled out our sandwiches. "A sandwich for you sir." The lycan took the outstretched sandwich and practically inhaled it. I bit into my own sandwich, taking my time to eat it while taking in the view around me.

Syn suddenly threw himself at me, embracing me in a tight hug. My thighs clamped around the branch to keep my balance. "I'm so glad that you were brought to us," he said squeezing me tightly. "You're the best thing to happen to this pack."

I wrapped my own arms around the lycan, rubbing comforting circles on his back while thinking how hard it might be for me to let them go.

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