In the Shadows

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Forty One

Hate was much easier to bond over than anything else. To use hate to rally an army was easy. Unfortunately, the lycans were the object of hatred, making everything about finding allies harder. It had nearly been a month and we had gotten practically nowhere with gaining support.

I couldn't sleep knowing while the enemy force grew ours remained stagnant. I felt guilty, like this was all my fault the lycans were in this circumstance with an impending deadline. It was my father, my pack, who would hurt my newfound family. So I had made it my responsibility to somehow fix this.

Staring at the ceiling with my hands clasped together on my stomach, I gazed into the darkness while my mind whirred and clicked thinking up and tossing out new ideas. I was beginning to fear there was no solution, that maybe the lycans really were meant to die out.

The thought made my heart twist painfully.

The sheets rustled and pulled as Hakota stirred. His eyes blinked openly sleepily, coming to focus on my wide awake state. He groaned, and crawled over to me, laying his head on my abdomen. "Can't sleep?" He murmured tiredly, his eyes once again closed as he let out a deep breath.

I played with his hair absently, not needing to answer. My sleepless nights had become a regular occurrence this last week.

"We are going to be fine Cleo," he mumbled, "we always survive."

I swallowed, "I hate feeling like I will be the reason for all your deaths. That in the end I'm the one who will be the reason you die."

Hakota sat up, and I followed suit, sitting up against the headboard. Hakota turned my face to the side with a light touch of his finger and pressed his forehead to mine. "You will be the death of me, Cleo."

I pulled away from him, my heart cracking at his words. He blamed me as well? Why did he say it so gently then?

Hakota, sensing my growing panic shushed me, and pulled me tight against him, tucking me under his chin and squeezing me in his embrace. "Only you will kill me. If you ever leave me, you'll destroy me. But I will live for you Cleo. I will make sure I always live unless you are the one that ends me."

He kissed me softly, the feel of his lips lingering on my forehead. Settling back into a comfortable position, Hakota kept me trapped in his arms, kissing his mark on my skin and was then almost immediately fast asleep. I cuddled into him, holding onto him scared that one day I wouldn't be able to.

The days passed by in a blur. Everyone was always busy, there were so many things that needed to be done. Hakota was gone for most of the day, leaving in the early morning and coming home in the dead of night. I only found comfort knowing Sitka had his back so nothing would happen to them while they were away.

Terrin was my anchor. He kept me from insanity, always somehow finding a way to amuse me. I wished Syn would tell him the truth so that he would be accepted into the pack and I didn't have to fear losing him. However, it was selfish of me to wish that. Syn didn't want him to be involved in the danger. The hunters were too much of a threat and Terrin would probably end up dead.

I was leaning against the outside wall of the hand carved furniture store, watching as Terrin tried to get a date with a she-wolf. I smiled to myself as he tried and failed at being a charmer, scrambling after the female that had lost interest in talking to him.

"I see you were once again left behind," the forever present voice that never failed to annoy me said from my left. I lazily swung my head to the side to see the female that was grating on my last nerve. "Hakota must be getting tired of your company," she mocked.

"Do you really have nothing better to do than follow me around and provoke me?" My expression was the epitome of boredom.

She grinned nastily, "Oh I was just curious to know the reason why your mate always seems to abandon you. He's not embarrassed of you is he?" Her fake concern was more irritating than the words coming out of her mouth. "I know that when Hakota and I were together he took me everywhere with him, but I guess he just thinks me to be more competent and trustworthy than you. Who could trust a hunter, right?"

My last thread of patience snapped. "For the love of Lune!" I hissed and slammed Sky up against the wall, my forearm pressed against her throat to keep her pinned there while slowly cutting off oxygen. "You lost Sky, okay? All of your lies and games are petty and tiresome. I'm not giving Hakota up, no matter what you have to tell me so just stop, okay?" I relaxed my arm, taking a step back so that the werewolf fell to the ground in a heap. "I'm marked, Sky. He picked me. So accept your defeat with a bit of grace and move on."

With that I turned to leave only making it a few steps before she started to laugh. It was a low gurgle at first, a deep chuckle that grew into an amused cackle. "That mark?" She sneered. "That doesn't mean anything. I should know, after all, I had one on my neck for a while."

My blood froze, my heart stopped for a half second before it began to thunder in my chest. I slowly turned around to see the female still sitting on the ground with a crazed look in her eye. "Oh, he didn't tell you?" Mirth glinted in her eyes. "Your mate marked me. He wanted to know if his mark would spur on my heat so that the other females could get impregnated." She cocked her head to the side, "he tried absolutely everything. Anything that meant he wouldn't have to mate with you. He only went back for you because he had no other choice."

I clenched my hands into fists, telling myself not to cry in front of this female. I knew she was telling the truth, damnit, I knew it was somehow true. I turned away before I ended up killing the female. With quick steps I carried myself far away from her but not fast enough to not hear as she called out, "And if you are looking to go crying to Pine, good luck. Hakota killed the weak thing. A pathetic mate for a pathetic hunter."

I didn't stop walking, even as the tears began streaming down my cheeks. I broke into a sprint, tearing through the forest, hurdling rocks and logs. Low hanging branches, scratched at my face and tangled in my hair, pulling out strands as I refused to stop. I continued running, trying to put distance between me and the truth.

I was the reason Pine was dead, if I had just left him alone and never gotten him involved he'd still be alive. And Hakota...

He obviously lied about everything. I was nothing but a breeding machine for him, and a blood bank in case he was wounded.

My tears blinded me, and caused me to miss a protruding root. My foot got caught and sent me tumbling to the ground. The wind was knocked out of me as I went rolling down the steep hill side, banging into rocks and cutting myself on thorny plants.

I gasped for air when I was at the bottom, trying to breathe through my sobs. My arms and legs were cut, a deep gash on my forearm leaking blood. My cheeks and knees were scrapped and my ankle and wrist throbbed. Curling into a ball, I cried, rocking myself back and forth in an effort to comfort myself. I buried my face in my knees, wrapping my arms around my legs.

Branches snapped and the distant calls of my name floated on the breeze. I didn't respond, didn't want to see the male who called himself my mate.

He wasn't even supposed to be here, he was supposed to be in the territory over talking with the alpha there.

"Cleo?" The calls came closer. "Cleo!" Hakota's voice held a twinge of panic and I figured he must have seen me. He expertly maneuvered his way down the hillside, coming up next to me.

He crouched down and started taking note of all my injuries. "What happened?" He tried to lift my head up to see my face but I wouldn't budge. "Why are you so close to the eastern territory?"

Again, I didn't answer. I was surprised to hear I'd run further than I thought, then again, I hadn't really been thinking about my distance, speed or location.

"I thought I smelled you on my way back but it didn't make any sense why you'd be here so I ignored it. But then I could smell your blood and I got so worried. Damnit Cleo, look at me! Tell me what happened." He began to ramble and succeeded in sounding genuinely worried and panicked.

I wouldn't fall for that anymore. I knew the truth now. He didn't want me, he didn't actually care about me. "Leave me alone," I mumbled into my knees.

"Cleo, let me look." He tried to unravel my ball of limbs, taking hold of my arm to pull it away from my legs.

"Go away!" I shouted, shoving him back with all my might. "I don't want you here!"

He fell back, blinking at me. "Cleo–" he reached out a hand.

I snapped my teeth at him and he jerked his hand back, taken aback by my aggressive behavior. The bewildered look was replaced with a stern expression. "Cleo." His voice was hard now.

"I'm fine," I snarled. "Stop pretending you want to help me. Just go take care of the important things." I stood up, dusting off the dirt and twigs. "I'll find my way back on my own." The lycan was ready to protest but I only spat, "Don't worry, I'm not going to run away. You don't have to worry about your breeder going missing."

Hakota rose to his feet, looking completely confused, "Where is all of this coming from?"

"Does it matter?" I snapped. "You can drop the act. You don't have to keep pretending. You got what you wanted. Your mark is on my shoulder so you won the game. I know you despise me, that you only put up with me because you have to and there's no other way for you to get what you want except through me."

"What the hell do you mean, drop the act?" Hakota growled, "Who told you that I despise you?"

"It doesn't matter. I know the truth now so stop making me look like a fool." My voice cracked at the end. I must have looked so stupid to all the other lycans. They probably had a good laugh about it. I could hear their mocking voices. Look at the pathetic little hunter who thinks a lycan would ever love her. "I don't want to hear anymore lies."

"God Cleo!" Hakota suddenly shouted, causing me to leap back in surprise. "Why are you so stupid?" He curled his lip at me, "You don't know anything." I flinched away at his tone. The alpha of lycans was coming out and he was pissed. "You can't even think for yourself, you just believe whatever someone tells you! Why can't you ever believe me? Why can't you ever trust me?"

Once again he'd called me stupid and he had a way of always making me feel like I was. Why did he always manage to make me feel like trash even when I expected it? When I should be used to it? "No one ever tells me the goddamn truth! Everything is just lies and more lies and that's even if they decided to answer me. So yes, I tend to believe people when they are actually willing to tell me something and I'm sorry I'm making it hard for you to lie to me." Tears sneaked their way down my cheeks, and I hurriedly tried to wipe them away. "And stop calling me stupid," I sniffled, feeling like such a weakling. "Because I'm not too stupid to know that you've been in contact with the hunters and refused to tell me anything about it." Hakota made a sound of objection but I pressed on, "Or that you killed Pine after I told you not to." Again he tried to interrupt me but I hit him with another, "Or that you've been slumming it with Sky." It hurt to force those last words from my throat.

His mouth snapped shut in surprise.

I laughed through my tears, "Oh yes Hakota, I know all about that."

His eyes were panicked as he hurriedly tried to explain, "It's not what you think. That–"

"Did you or did you not sleep with her?" I asked shortly, tired of the lies.

His eyes were pained as he quickly answered, "I did but–"

"And did you continue to after you knew about me?" I cut him off, not giving him a chance to try and make it seem justified.

"Yes, but–" the frantic panic in his eyes died out and a spark of anger replace it. "How can you condemn me for that?" He snarled. "You're the one who proclaimed that you shouldn't just fall to your knees and ask your mate to spend the rest of your life together. You said that mates are no different than strangers and you shouldn't just fall in love with them and be loyal to them."

"You stupid bastard!" I yelled, wiping furious tears from my eyes. "I don't care if you slept with her! I don't care if you slept with a hundred people! You wanted to ease your needs? Fine. You're a billion years old, how could I expect you to remain celibate all these years? But you could have done all of that without marking her, you dumb brute! How do you think I feel knowing you tried everything possible to get what you wanted so you didn't have to deal with me? You marked her, mated her, tried to get her pregnant all so you'd never have to see me again." I choked on a sob, hating how heartbroken I was. "I wish you'd never came back. I wish you would have just left me alone if you find me so repulsive."

Hakota was speechless trying to fully comprehend what it was I knew, and how I knew about it.

"I guess I should be grateful you were able to stomach marking me," I laughed bitterly before rolling my shoulders back and standing up to my full height. "I accept your stupid deal, Hakota. Breed me as you please but other than that stay the hell away from me."

"Cleo–" he grabbed for my arm as I began to walk away but I ripped it away from him.

"The deal starts now Hakota, and since I'm not in my heat you need to leave me alone."

"Fine." Hakota said, "but you will be back at the house before nightfall, am I clear?" There was no room for argument, he was using his alpha voice and I knew better than to go against his command. "Do I make myself clear?" He asked again when I failed to respond.

"Yeah, fine. Whatever." I turned my back to him, silently telling him I was done talking. There was a moment of silence before he let out a breath and walked away, leaving me alone as I'd asked.

When I was sure he was gone, I plunked down on the ground and put my face in my hands. My whole life was turning into a nightmare. Nothing could possibly make this day any worse.

At least that's what I thought before I was suddenly grabbed from behind, a gag shoved in my mouth and a bag pulled over my head.

"You should have listened to Grey," a voice hissed in my ear. "Now you'll be the traitor to both sides."

And it was then that I knew my life could could certainly get a whole lot worse and it was about to.

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