In the Shadows

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Thirty Six

We had lost track of time, not arriving back at the pack house until well after sunset. The stars poked holes of light through the black blanket of night. The Moon glowed brightly from its high perch in the sky, a soft glow bathing our surroundings.

Pine had carried me back to the lycan house, even though I'd insisted I could walk, he didn't want me to hurt myself more.

I was still laughing at the story Pine told me about his family, clutching tightly onto him so I didn't fall out of his arms, as we arrived at our final destination.

Pine's laughter abruptly cut off and I glance up at him to see a grim expression set on his face. I twisted around to follow his gaze and saw the object of his discomfort.

Hakota was standing before the door with a murderous expression on his face. From the state of the trampled grass, I could see he'd been pacing for quite some time.

I had not anticipated Hakota waiting for my return. I wholly expected to be able to walk through those doors and to my room without interruption.

Though now I could clearly see that was not going to happen.

I squeezed Pine's arm in a silent order to set me down but he only gripped me tighter taking a few determined steps forward until he was only an arms length away from the alpha of lycans.

There was an awkward tension between the three of us, no one having anything to say. Hakota dropped his glare from Pine to me, still nestled in another male's arms.

"Where the hell have you been?" He snarled out, his fists balling tighter. I could see the blood leaking from his hands where his claws had punctured skin and knew he was barely keeping control.

I kept a blank expression on my face, trying to seem as unbothered as possible. I shrugged to the best of my ability while scrunched up in Pine's hold. "Around and about, here and there."

Hakota scanned my body, his eyes lingering on my neck like he was searching for a mark. I bit my tongue, keeping my snappy remark at bay. It was understandable he thought I'd have let another mark me, I had, after all, allowed that alpha to do so.

His eyes slowly left my neck and trailed down my body landing on my bandaged foot. "What the hell did you do to her?" He roared, taking a menacing step forward.

Pine stepped back, turning me to the side as if to shield me from Hakota's wrath.

The lycan growled and made a threatening movement to take me away. Pine growled back on instinct. I saw the fire light up in Hakota's eyes as the alpha came to the surface ready to take out the threat.

I intervened before blood was spilled. "Pine didn't do anything to hurt me Hakota, in fact he helped me. If Pine hadn't of found me I'd have had to limp my way back here or maybe even still be by the river."

This seemed to calm him down enough that he didn't tear into my poor potential werewolf mate. He took one more step forward, holding out his arms. "Give her to me."

Pine clutched me tighter to himself, "I'll take her inside."

"I'll be damned if I let some werewolf into my home with my mate," Hakota hissed.

"Maybe I'll just take her home with me then," Pine retorted.

"I'm at the end of my rope, werewolf," Hakota gritted out, his teeth grinding in restraint.

Pine was about to be at the end of his life if I didn't step in. Poking at Pine's chest I got him to break the stare down to look at me. I gave him a meaningful look, nodding my head slightly.

The werewolf clenched his jaw and after giving me a tight squeeze imitating a hug, he relinquished me to Hakota. Once I was in Hakota's arms Pine gave me a small smile, mouthing the word 'goodnight' before turning on his heel and vanishing into the darkness.

Hakota watched the werewolf leave, staying for a moment longer just to be sure Pine had left before spinning around and stalking into the house.

We passed the living room filled with lycans and I felt eight pairs of eyes follow us up the stairs. For once Sani kept his mouth shut and didn't antagonize me, but I almost wished he did if only to break the silence. I felt like a child again, held in my father's arms as he strode past my pack members to give us privacy so he could yell at me. I was too tired at this point to be embarrassed or fight back and try to be independent.

Hakota brought me straight to his room that we had been sharing, and carefully set me on the bed, surprising me. His muscles were so taut I thought he would just dump me on the mattress or maybe even half throw me onto the bed. Instead his stiff movements became fluid as I was propped up against the headboard. Hakota leaned over me to click on the lamp before taking a seat on the edge of the bed.

My lycan mate sat with one leg folded on the bed and the other resting on the ground. He pulled my injured foot into the half cradle formed by his leg and slowly unwound the cloth from my foot. I hissed at any contact that touched my toe.

It was swollen and a deep purple color, looking as horrible as it felt. I had really done a lot of damage to my foot, so much so that my fast healing abilities were having trouble keeping up.

"How on earth did you do this?" Hakota murmured while turning my foot side to side to inspect the full extent of the damage.

"I kicked a rock," I muttered, looking away when his head snapped up.

"What in the name of Lune were you thinking?" He snapped, letting my foot down. "You can't just act out in blind anger Cleo. Actions have consequences."

"Okay Dad," I grumbled, trying to move my foot away from him.

He snatched my ankle and yanked my foot back into his lap. "I'm serious Cleo." His hand ran up my ankle and started to caress my leg, his fingers massaged up the back of my calf. I almost felt a little bad for snapping at him. He hadn't even mentioned Pine yet, he was more concerned about my safety than some petty superior dominance power play and I'd be lying if I said it didn't make me a little warm inside. His brows were screwed together in frustration and his fingers began to increase their pressure on my leg. "If you were seriously hurt and rogues attacked you, then what?"

I scoffed, rolling my eyes at the ridiculous scenario, "Really Hakota? Rogues? I haven't even seen one anywhere in the three months I've been with you. I'm pretty sure you and your lycan pack scared them all away."

Hakota pinched the back of my calf, "Stop being a brat, you know what I'm talking about. You aren't invincible, Cleo, you need to be more careful." He went on about my recklessness and rashness. I drowned out his lecture focusing on the movements of his hand on my leg as they resumed their massaging. I followed the movement of the blank ink that decorated his arm up to his shoulder before disappearing under his shirt where I knew it lead to the right half of his body. I studied the design, the smoke like wisps leading up his arm in a tangle of ink. Some tendrils ended in a spiral in some places but somehow the ink continued on never really ending.

A sharp cough had me blinking back to reality and looking at Hakota whose fingers I now noticed had stopped their actions. My mate gave me a sharp look. "You weren't listening to a single thing I was saying, were you?"

I shrugged, "Its not like I'll follow your instructions so why bother listening to them?"

From the way Hakota's sapphire eyes narrowed I realized that probably wasn't the wisest thing to say. I cleared my throat, "You were saying?"

"Why were you angry?" Hakota asked flatly, removing my foot from his lap so that he could stand. The bed shifted with his movements, springing back when his weight was gone.

I sank into my pillow, not really wanting to explain. I'd sound jealous, at least he'd think that was the reason because I couldn't tell him about Grey. I wasn't angry he had been with Sky—hell I still had to somehow find out if that was true—it more that I was angry because I'd once again been lied to. "It was nothing, you're right I was being dumb and wasn't thinking about my actions," I tried to brush it off hoping he'd let it go.

He didn't.

"Clearly it was something Cleo."

"It's not important Hakota." I replied with a little bite in my words, hoping he'd take the hint I didn't want to tell him why I had kicked the rock and broken my toe.

A muscle in his jaw feathered as he clenched his jaw. "Tell me."

"No," I answered firmly, my hand forming into fists on the soft blanket beneath me.

"Was it something I did?" Hakota pushed, not taking no for an answer.

I ground my teeth together and didn't respond, annoyed he wasn't letting this go.

"So it is," Hakota took my silence as confirmation to his assumption. I merely turned away from him, examining the lampshade on the nightstand to my right. It was the only light source in the room and currently the warm glow was casting shadows across our faces, sending the other shadows scurrying to the corners to lurk until its light diminished.

"I wasn't even there Cleo. We left on good terms so what could I have done in my absence?" I kept a tight lip, crossing my arms to show how little interest I had in continuing the conversation as I ignored him, looking away elsewhere. "Damnit Cleo! Tell me, talk to me, inform me of my wrongdoings."

I laughed icily, still not turning my head to look at him. "Ha! I'll start telling you things when you return the curtesy."

"What?" Hakota's voice snapped like a whip. "What the hell does that mean?" He demanded.

My neck whipped around ninety degrees to I could set my narrow eyes on him. "I don't know," I snipped. Then tapping my finger to my lips and looking skyward I said, "Hmmm why don't you explain why you have two sets of mates but no pups in your pack? Or why everyone here hates your guts? Maybe you could inform me why you didn't take me with you the first time you saw me and didn't fight my father. Or perhaps you could share some light on the reason you let some female werewolf drag you around and do everything she asks. Oh! I know!" I said with false enthusiasm, effectively cutting him off from making a remark on my last stamens about Sky. "Why don't you, for the love of Lune, tell me what the hell happened the night my mother was killed because no one will tell me a goddamn thing other than she died because you killed her!"

"You're going to accuse me of keeping secrets?" My mate growled, stalking over to me. He grabbed my face between his thumb and forefinger, lifting up my chin. "How about you spill some answers of your own? Care to explain why every time I leave you alone you happen to find some other mate? Or maybe you'd like to share where it is you disappear to for hours at a time after ditching my pack members?" His intense eyes bored into mine and his fingers tightened their grip infinitesimally. "I would also appreciate the reason for your sudden change of heart about our relationship and your willingness to give us a chance. But what I'd really like to know is why the hell I picked up the scent of a hunter," his pupils bled into his irises the black color fanning out into the white of his eyes, "and then couldn't find you for hours."

I swallowed but didn't flinch away from the predator in front of me. He cocked his head mockingly, "Well little Cleo? Do you have an answer for me?"

I breathed out a deep breath, my nose flaring at the control I was keeping to prevent myself from lashing out. The last thing I needed was to instigate him while he was in this state.

"Didn't think so," he snarled, roughly letting go of my chin, causing my head to thunk against the headboard.

My eyes followed him around the room as he walked around the foot of the bed, yanking his shirt over his head and tossing it to a dark corner of the room. He kicked off his shoes and shed his pants on his way over to the left side of the bed where he then crawled underneath the covers, tugging them out from under me with more force than necessary.

I sighed heavily, reaching over to switch off the light when Hakota spoke again, "Stay away from that werewolf, Puny Pinecone," he added as an afterthought while hiking the covers over his shoulder, using his back as a wall between us.

"First of all, his name is Pine," I addressed his childishness, "and second of all, you don't get to tell me what to do."

Hakota was on top of me faster than I could blink. The sheets were a crinkled and tangle mess, half covering him and keeping his heated skin from making contact with mine. "Don't make me kill him Cleo. You saw how easily I killed your previous werewolf mate. Don't for a second believe I won't do it again."

I reached up, grabbing his shoulders and digging my nails into the flesh there. "You won't lay a single finger on Pine because you owe me. I want a friend Hakota, someone who isn't obligated to be my friend." I pulled myself up so that my cheek brushed his and breathed into his ear, "besides, a little friendly competition is good for your male ego. You like to say you're the only one fit to be my mate, that you are my only mate and I should only ever want to be with you." I pulled away with an evil smirk, feeling his muscles tense as his hands bunched up the sheets into a tight grip. "Prove it."

His chest rumbled in a deep growl and all of a sudden he was on me.

His lips captured mine in a punishing kiss. His sharp canines nipped at my lip and from the way the copper tang flooded my mouth I knew I was bleeding from it. The force he used was bruising, he was putting everything he had into this kiss. I started to see stars although I wasn't sure if that was from the lack of oxygen or because it was so intoxicating and mind blowing.

When I opened my mouth to breath he used the opportunity to thrust his tongue in my mouth, completely overtaking me. All I could do was taste him, smell him, feel him. He was the only sense I had and call me a lair if I said I didn't love it. I moaned out my approval only to have him abruptly pull away.

I took me a second to comprehend what had just happened and even then all I could do was blink up at Hakota.

With a devious glint in his eyes the edge of his lips twisted up in a devilish grin. "See if your boy toy werewolf can trounce that," he gloated with a very self satisfied smirk before flopping onto his side and once more pulling the sheet over his broad shoulders.

Touching a finger to my swollen lips to understand the gravity of what had just happened, I pulled my finger away to see the tip stained in red. Even though I felt as though I should be mad, offended even, all I could do was click off the lamp and stare up into the darkness of the ceiling, grinning like an idiot.

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