In the Shadows

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Thirty Four

For a moment I was frozen, then in a flurry of motion I threw myself at the hunter and wrapped my arms around him in a tight embrace.

Grey's arms encircled me, "Hey kiddo, how have you been?"

I only squeezed him tighter in response, tears clogging my throat and keeping me from speaking. When I finally pulled away from him, I wiped at my eyes and stared up at him, "Why are you here?"

The smile on his face dissolved and my heart skipped a beat. Was something wrong? Had something happened to the pack or my father?

Grey gestured for me to sit. I plunked down on the sofa, sinking into the plush cushions while Grey stood in front of me.

Oh boy...this was not going to be good. This was the setup my father and Grey always put me in before they gave me a lecture.

Grey paced the floor and all I could do was grip my hands, my fingers clenching tighter every time he walked in front of me. Finally he stopped, running his hand through his hair, grasping at the roots and giving them a good yank. A telltale sign he was very frustrated and upset. "What are you doing Cleo?" He demanded.

"What..." I swallowed thickly knowing exactly where this was going. "What do you mean?" I'd feared this would happened. That somehow, some impossible way, my father would find out I was chickening out of my task.

"Goddamn it Cleo, don't play this game with me!" Grey snarled out when his temper slipped its leash. I shrank further into the couch, tucking my chin to my chest. "Why is he still alive Cleo?" I opened my mouth to spout out with some bullshit excuse but he didn't even give me a chance. He held up a hand, silencing me. "Don't Cleo." He turned blazing eyes on me, "I saw you today. That alone was a perfect chance to kill him, and don't even bother telling me no opportunity as such has ever arose."

I crossed my arms and came up with the brilliant rebuttal of, "So?"

Grey blinked. Once. Twice. As if he couldn't quite comprehend that I didn't even try to make up an excuse. After another second he exploded, "So? So!" He grabbed my shoulders and shook me fiercely as if that would knock some sense into me. "That was the whole point of all this! You insisted we let you go with them, told us this was the best chance we had. We only agreed because you promised you could do it!"

I pushed Grey back, standing up and squaring my shoulders. I glared up at the hunter, probably not very intimidating because he was over a foot taller than me, which was nothing new, everyone was taller than me. "I can do it!" I argued. "I've chosen not to but that doesn't mean I can't." Grey glared back down at me. "I'm weighing all the options."

"Options? There are no other options. Hakota dies or we die."

"No," I stabbed him with my finger, "that is a lie and you know it!"

Grey stepped back in surprise, not expecting my angry and loud reply. To hell with feeling guilty. He'd lied to me, my father had lied to me, they'd all lied to me.

"If I don't mate with Hakota there never will be another generation of lycans. My heat is what activates the heats for the other females. If I don't go into heat as their alpha female, mated to their alpha, they can't have pups and the lycan race will die with them. No one must be killed."

"Cleo—" his voice was calm now, soft even. He reach out a hand to pull me into a hug but I slapped his peace offering away.

"Unless you have a damn good reason for lying to me, I don't want to hear it." I turned away from him, pouting like an immature pup.

"We didn't know that—"

"More lies aren't going to help you either."

Grey sighed, defeated by my childishness. "Fine, we did know." He conceded. I only humphed in response and crossed my arms. "Cleo, this was never about not killing Hakota." Although I didn't turn around he had my full attention. Grey exhaled a long breath, "Hakota is too dangerous to be left alive. Besides the fact we can't risk a forced mating between you and him, he's a danger to everyone just by breathing. You must have seen how cruel he can be. I know you have. All those alphas he killed, your very own mate, that's just the surface of what he will do once he has you where he wants you."

He was right of course. I'd seen the monster people spoke of. I would not forget the cage, collar, and muzzle. The way he brutally decapitated my possible mate who was already broken and battered. The image of the grotesque executions of those alphas would forever be burned in my mind. That was how he behaved, how he dealt with traitors and insubordination. I was not blind to it and I was not a fool to overlook it. But it wasn't so cut and dry. I had seen the good in Hakota. Roshan's words of how Hakota saved him, saved most of his pack from gruesome deaths. He had fiercely protected his pack members from me, disciplined me for hurting a member. These past few days he had shown me kind gestures, could even be considered romantic in a way. He wasn't only bad and it was hard to kill something when you saw the good in it.

"He's not as evil as you all think he is," my words were quiet, almost hesitant as if I was asking him to confirm my statement.

"We told you to do it fast for a reason Cleo," Grey answered, turning me around to face him. He gave me a sad smile. "He is your mate, nothing will ever change that. I will never know how this feels. A bond like this with a lycan is a thing crafted by Lune not Fate. Lune puts a part of her heart in every lycan bond, that's why it is so powerful, why it is so hard to ignore." I looked down at my feet shuffling my weight back and forth. Grey lifted my chin, "But you are strong Cleo and you have to overcome the bond and see the importance of what must be done. Hakota will not stop until every hunter is dead. If he decides to keep you, you will wish you were dead. His tyranny will expanded across the whole earth, to the west where our pack lies and to the east where the old kingdoms are. He will conquer the south and every werewolf will be under his reign."

I had nothing to say in reply to that. Part of me believed that after I gave into Hakota this whole act, his entire attitude towards me would vanish. I would be a weapon for him, an invincible shield he could use over and over to heal himself from anything. And if we had pups, there was a chance they would turn out to be hunters. Would he simply slaughter them or would he enslave them and turn them into weapons of mass destruction?

"I just want happiness, to be loved and accepted," I murmured, looking away from Grey. I felt guilty for accusing him of never providing me with that feeling. He out of everyone was the closest thing to family. He was like an older brother to me, but did he ever love me? Had anyone ever loved me?

I was worried Grey would think me to be a pathetic lovesick girl and take me back to my father's pack with him. However, Grey only looked at me like I was a kicked puppy. "You can Cleo, you can find happiness even if Hakota is dead. There are others besides him, and I promise you that you will find more potential mates. You'll have us, your pack, your father."

"How do you think that makes me feel?" I demanded miserably. "I have to kill my mate so that my father will be proud of me. I have to kill the alpha of lycans so that my pack will respect me." I shook my head, "I don't want to have to earn that. I should not be required to kill someone so that I am not treated like an outcast."

"And you think that Hakota truly loves you? Come on Cleo, you know of his deep hatred for hunters. He wants to use you not love you. Your happy ending is not with him. You will find someone else. There is a male out there for you."

"No." Even if there was someone out there that I could have a perfect life with, it would never happen. "Hakota will kill anyone–"

"Not if he's dead Cleo. Can't you see? You'll never be happy with him. He's a disease. Everyone around him dies."

"The same could be said for my father," I said bitterly.

"And you know as well as I that your father loves no one, he cannot love anyone because of the hatred in his heart." The words were a blow, even though they were true it still hurt for Grey to say it so bluntly. "Hakota is the same, filled with so much anger and hate. Once he has his mark on you he will move to kill us, your pack, your real family."

"He wouldn't do that," I whispered, but even the words didn't sound convincing to me.

"Look beyond the honeyed words. Once you've yielded he will treat you like the rest of us. He killed your mother for leaving the lycans to be with your father. You don't mean anything to him Cleo. I'm trying to protect you."

And yet I couldn't believe that was his only reason for being here. My father would not send him here to tell me to shape up and finish the job. Which led to the question...

"Did you come just to tell me this? Or did my father send you to do what I didn't?" I looked deep into those eyes I had once found comfort in. "Are you here to kill Hakota, Grey?"

His lack of answer told me all I needed to know. I nodded to myself, not surprised in the least. "Go Grey," I told him, he was wasting time talking to me. He knew I wouldn't do it. I would have long ago if I'd intended to. It was far too late now, I'd been with Hakota for too long. "I will figure this out myself."

My old friend walked to the door, pulling his jacket from the hook. "I'm giving you another chance, Cleo," he said as he shrugged on his coat. "Our fall back plan is already in motion." He turned to me giving me a meaningful look, "If you don't want to be the one to do it, then just be cooperative and listen to Little Cloud and his followers. I am here to give them new information and the next phase of the plan." I clenched my jaw but said nothing. I should be grateful to him for doing his best to give me a second chance should I change my mind, but I was pissed off instead. He was trying to change my mind. He didn't trust my judgement, he didn't care that I might have feelings for my mate.

Grey placed his hand on the door, ready to open it and disappear but he gave me one last piece of information before he went. "That female, Sky, he was with her after he knew about you. He knew you were his mate but he slept with her anyway."

My eyes snapped up to his. My lip curled up in a snarl, "Grey," I began warningly. Lying to me in an attempt to raise my anger so I'd act against Hakota in thoughtless rage was not scoring him any points.

"Ask him Cleo," Grey pressed. He was dead serious, he believed what he was saying. "Look him in the eyes and ask him."

Before I could respond, Grey slipped out the door and I was left alone unsure whether to scream or cry.

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