In The Shadows

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Forty Two

Groggily, I blinked open my eyes. Everything was dark. My head was still covered, rendering my sight useless. Not even a light patch showed through the bag that was covering my face, meaning that one of three possible scenarios were the cause of this. Reason one, it was dark outside. Reason two, there was no windows and I was just in a dark room. Or reason three, this was just really good fabric that would make a wonderful sleep mask.

The bag was dark and heavy, probably due to how densely knitted the fabric was which made it really hot under here as I panted. All I could hear were my labored breaths that gradually calmed as I did. I shifted slightly only to hear the clink of chains that were holding me captive.

Fantastic.

Kidnapped, chained, stuffed into a bag and gaged. I had been stripped of all my senses but two. The use of my nose and ears was all I had left. It didn't give me much to work with considering I would probably need to break out of a highly guarded fortress that was used to keep people in more than out. My father didn't exactly seem like the kind of person who would just give me a stern talking to and then let me go free and forget his feud and vengeance agenda with the lycans, the alpha of which was my mate.

No. My father was probably going to kill me at his earliest convince for trading the hunters for the lycans. Forsaking him for Hakota. My betrayal would not go over well with my father which meant I was also on a time clock to figure out how the hell to escape on top of everything else.

Taking what little I'd been given, I used my sense of smell to detect how many bodies circled through here on a regular basis and what exactly I was up against. Just in this room alone I could scent three different werewolves had been in and out regularly. Two hunters had as well, their scent holding a hint of iron to it unlike that of the werewolves.

I tried to stretch out my sense to gage just how many people I would need to get through. Unfortunately, the door was sprayed down with some strong herbal scent, mucking up any further attempt at clear scenting. So I strained to hear, trying to detect voices or slight movements. I could pick up quiet muffled voices but the harder I tried to hear the more the dull pain in my head throbbed. My head was pounding, the after effects of the blunt force that knocked me out cold, and any intense concentration only made it worse.

Movement just beyond me had me going still. I slowed my breathing to mimic the deep methodical rhythm of sleep. Just as I suspected someone soon entered coming to check on me. I waited until they were within arms reach before kicking out with my legs, catching my abductor in the chest. Calculating how tall he was based off of where my foot struck, I swung out again, catching him around the neck and pulling him down towards me. From there I wrapped my legs tighter in an effort to strangle him.

He gasped and hit at my leg, trying to get out of my hold but I only squeezed tighter. A moment before he was rendered unconscious there was a second set of footsteps.

"Cleo."

Just one word from him had me freezing. The absolute command of his voice made me yeild to his dominance. My legs slackened and soon withdrew from the body entirely. There was a loud gasping and sputtering sound as the werewolf tried to breathe again. His rattled breaths faded as he left, leaving me alone with the one person in the world I did not want to see.

The bag was pulled from my head, my hair falling around my face in a tangled mess. I glared up at my father as he stared down at me with those cold eyes. "I warned you, Cleo." He said, his voice completely monotone. He didn't look angered or even dissapointed. "I even gave you a second chance," he pulled the gag from my mouth, letting the wet fabric rest around the base of my throat. He clicked his tongue, 'It's my fault really," he said as he crouched down, balancing on the balls of his feet. "I should have known better," he seized my chin roughly, "You are half lycan after all and they can't be trusted with anything."

I didn't think anyone could be trusted with the task of killing their mate, especially if they were actually expected to complete it, but that was irrelevant to the alpha of hunters. He wanted his number one enemy taken out and no excuses would make him see my failure in a different light. He gave me a job, told me his expectations, and I failed to come through. It was as simple as that to him. I was completely useless in his eyes, and hunters didn't believe in keeping useless things. They were a drain on resources.

"So what?" I demanded, doing my best to sound unaffected. "Are you going to kill me now?"

Finally I received a look other than his blank expression. He gave me a looked that conveyed disappointment with my assumption. "Kill you?" My father shook his head. "Now why would I kill you when I have much more to gain if you are alive?" He let go of my jaw. "Besides, I have a better punishment than death for you betrayal."

I could make an easy guess as to what, or rather whom that was.

Hakota.

My father was going to use me as bait for my mate. But he wasn't going to stop there. To teach me a lesson he'd make sure Hakota died hating me, blaming me for his death by making him think I was in on my father's plan. And he was right indeed, Hakota's hate would hurt me worse than death. I never wanted to see those blue eyes turn on me with the same hatred they showed at the mention of my father.

The alpha of hunters smiled slowly as I came upon this realization. I pulled at my chains, trying to break out and strangle the man I called my father.

He would not do this to me. I would not let him turn Hakota against me. I would not allow my father to trick Hakota into thinking I betrayed him.

"He'll never come!" I yowled, "I'm not worth his life to him! I'm not worth the lives of his pack members!" I sounded so sure of myself that I wanted to believe it. I tried to convince myself that what I said was the truth because I'd rather he not come at all than come and die. I would not be responsible for his death. I had enough guilt on my shoulders.

My father sneered, "If that were truly the case, Cleo, you'd be dead." He didn't even flinch at his words, didn't hesitate to tell me he would have killed me had I no more use to him. "You are worth everything to him, Cleo, and I'll use you to take everything from him." He pulled the gag back up, pressing on my jaw to get me to open it so he could force the gag back in. I glared at him with blazing eyes as he stood and turned to the door, already finished with what he came here to say.

I screamed out my rage, shrieking and banging the chains as he left, turning to the werewolf at the door, "Shut her up and chain her more securely."

The werewolf nodded in a brisk motion, following his orders. I scrambled away from the werewolf who had picked up a baton by the door. He raised it back over his shoulder and swung. There was a crack and a blinding pain that shot through my skull before I felt nothing.

A large bang woke me. I startled awake, bashing my head against the wall behind me. Closing my eyes to ease the pain I groaned. My tongue was sore from where I'd bitten it because of the force of the blow, and the iron tang of blood still filled my mouth. My vision was still blurry as the room around me continued to spin in circles. I tried to blink it away and slowly the room came into focus.

The noise continued to grow, shouts and curses followed by screams had me holding back tears. Hakota was here, he'd let himself be lured into their trap. Why would he do this? I was nothing to him. Did his need for pups outweigh the possibility of his death? I was so confused. Did he really care about me, perhaps even feel something for me? He must to have come here on demand of the hunters without any time to plan.

Before I could debate the matter further, the door was flung open, a corpse flying through the doorway and smacking into the wall just beside me. I gaped at the body laying next to me of which the bottom half of the jaw was missing. I then lifted my eyes to the figure standing in the doorway. My mate dropped the other half of the missing jaw on the ground and rushed to me.

He collapsed to his knees in front of me. "Cleo," he murmured, his hand frantically brushing the hair from my face as he removed the gag. A line of spittle mixed with blood stretched with the fabric as it was pulled away. I was so happy to see him I couldn't even care that the heand touching me had just been holding a jaw.

Just as fast as the happiness came, fear took over and shoved happiness out the door. I shook my head at my mate as he tried to soothe me. He shouldn't be here. Why did he come even after everything I'd said to him last night?

The lycan examined the chains binding me, trying to pry them open but to no avail. He grabbed the bottom where it was secured to the wall and tugged but again the chains refused to budge. He pulled at the links, yanking them harder and harder as his frustration grew. "Hakota," I tied to stop him but he only continued with more vigor. "Hakota." I said again and this time he stopped.

The chains went limp in his hands and his shoulders sagged in defeat. "I'm so sorry Cleo," he whispered brokenly, "I shouldn't have left you alone in the forest."

"Don't apologize to me," I told him, "this is not your fault." I placed my forehead against his. "You need to leave me here Hakota. You need to get out right now. Take the others and go. Whatever you do, don't come back here."

"I left you before, Cleo and I made a promise to myself never to do it again. I am not going to leave you here." He cupped my face in his hands, "You were right to be angry about Sky and how I marked her but you were wrong about my reason for doing it. I didn't hate you Cleo, I didn't care about the fact you were a hunter, I was scared. It would have made everything easier if I didn't have to mate with you. Your father hates my kind and I knew he'd try and turn you against me. I knew you'd hate me and by taking you I was just confirming everything your father said about me. I killed your mother for Lune's sake," he gripped my shoulders, "how could you ever love me after I did that?"

"Hakota, you need to leave, there's no time–" I tried to talk some sense into him but he wouldn't have it.

He continued as if I hadn't interrupted. "At first I thought that my offer of pups for your freedom would be the only way I'd get to see you, be with you in that way. You wanted nothing to do with me and everything I did just made you hate me more. I just wanted us to be friends, share something other than loathing but every time we took a step forward we immediately took two back and I was just so tired of fighting with you. I thought about sending you back, thinking there was no way we'd ever get past our problems but then you decided to give me a chance. I didn't know why you'd suddenly changed your mind but I was so happy that you had."

"Hakota–" I tried again, wanting him to stop. I knew where this was going and it was only going to break my heart more.

"Then you let me in, gave me hope," Hakota hands came up to cup my face, his thumbs brushing against my cheek bones. "I finally had you but then Pine came along and he stole all your attention. You enjoyed being with him more than me, liked him more than me and I just felt so threatened. I didn't mean to kill him, I regretted it the moment after it happened, but I just couldn't let him steal you away, not when I was so close. You seemed to have forgotten all about him anyway, never questioned where he went, and it made me so damn happy that you were all mine." He looked deep into my eyes as he poured his heart out to me shaking my face slightly as if to punctuate his words to make me understand. "But then last night you suddenly hated me again. Something in me broke when you spat on my mark and called me a liar. For a second I believed you. I thought back to all of my actions, trying to remember if I had hidden motives and if this was supposed to be fake." We were both crying now. Me, because I was utterly crushed by his oncoming confession, knowing how betrayed he'd be if he thought I didn't feel the same. My father would ruin us and I would never get a chance to tell him how I felt.

"I let you go to try and sort it out myself and I was so angry with you for telling me how I felt. I knew how I felt." I began shaking my head, hoping he'd stop. If he didn't say the words outloud I could pretend he still hated me.

Hakota only soothed me, smoothing my hair back. "Shhh." He placed a kiss on the top of my head. "I love you Cleo. I love you with every fiber of my being, every bone in my body. This mark," he breathed tracing his thumb around the wring of scars on my neck, "means the world to me. You are my world."

A strangled sob escaped my lips. I had to get him out of here. My father wouldn't let him live. I tried to force the words to run but nothing came out except for garbled gibberish. "Leave," I breathed as he crushed me in his embrace. "Hakota you have to go before it's too late. I will find you." My last words were a lie but I needed him to believe them. He meant more to me than my own life did.

"Cleo," his grip on me tightened.

"Go!" I shouted.

Hakota's expression was grim as he forced himself to stand. His eyes held immense pain in them and I smiled encouragingly. "Go," I repeated quietly.

"Oh he won't be going anywhere," my father stepped into the doorway, Sitka slowly being suffocated in his grip with a knife at his throat.

Hakota stiffened and stepped in front of me protectively. My father laughed, "There's no need to protect her." He pressed the knife harder into Sitka's throat, blooding welling from the cut and staining the blade. "She accomplished her job. She got you here with your merry band of lycans." Hakota's brow furrowed in confusion. "Cleo," my father addressed me, turning to the side and earning a strangled sound from Sitka as the knife sliced deeper from the movement. "You are free to go now." The chains around my wrists clicked and fell to the ground. My father smirked at my mate even though his next words were directed at me, "I always knew I could count on you."

My mate turned to me with hurt eyes. Utterly betrayal was plain in his blue orbs as he took a step back from me.

"Hakota," I reached out a hand to him but he moved out of my reach. More tears flooded my eyes. "I didn't," I plead with him as the tears began to flow. "I swear I didn't."

Hakota clenched his jaw and turned away from me. "You can have me," He said to my father, "but let my pack go."

"Hakota no!" Sitka snarled, trying to get free. My father pushed away the lycan, the blade slashing a shallow line across his throat.

Hakota stepped to my father who, faster than lightning, slashed his claws across Hakota's chest, injecting him full of toxins. Hakota collapsed to his knees, one hand barley catching him from colliding with the floor. Three more hunters appeared by my father. Coda, my mentor cast a single look at me as he and the other picked up my mate between them.

I plead with him silently but he only turned away and pulled Hakota out with him. The remaining hunter went for Sitka, grabbing him around the base of his neck and also injecting him with his poison. Sitka stumbled forward, his loss of blood taking a toll on him and preventing him from effectively fighting back.

"You bitch!" Sitka howled, as the hunter began to drag him away. "You sold us out! You betrayed us! We are all going to die because of you!" His words followed him out the door.

We are all going to die because of you.

We are all going to die because of you.

His last words echoed over and over in my head.

My hands curled into fists, my claws scraping against the stone ground. I gritted my teeth. No. They would not die because of me. They would live, even if that meant I had to die.

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