In the Shadows

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Choosing that I had to have heard wrong I asked the question Coda hated most. "What?"

He glared at me. "Are you deaf? I said you have to run two laps instead of one each time and that everything else is double. That means two laps in the lake, six sets of a hundred jumps, one hundred pushups, and ten repetitions of ten lifts."

"And you are deducting one of my breaks?" I seethed. This was so unfair! It was ridiculous! This amount of exercise was unreasonable!

"Are you giving up?" He demanded, his face blank, void of any expression. I had no idea what he was thinking.

Was this his goal? To make me give up? Well it wouldn't work! "No I am not giving up! How am I supposed to do this?" I demanded, curling my hands into fists.

"Stop whining pup." Coda hissed. "I hate whiners and even more than whiners, I hate self pity. Get your ass into the water and give me two laps or I'll make you do triple."

"This is crazy!" I argued. "None of the others had to do anything close to this! You are being—"

"Unfair?" He finished my statement disgust evident in his tone. He seized the front of my shirt and pulled me closer. "But you aren't like all of the others, are you little pup?" I glared back into his eyes challengingly. "If you don't like it, then quit. I have better things to do than babysit a spoiled little brat."

I yanked myself from his grasp and stomped to the bank and began my laps, grumbling about it the whole time. It was torture, completely insane to ask of a twelve year old. My father may be one of the strongest alphas to have walked the earth but I inherited none of his greatness.

My muscles ached and screamed at the excessive amount of work I was putting them through. Coda continued to shout at me to correct my form and run faster. I didn't know how he was able to read his book and shout at me at the same time, but I wished he was more invested in his reading and less on me.

I finished my training without a word to Coda and stomped my way down the trail back to my house.

"Bring a new attitude tomorrow!" Coda barked after me, seeing that I was leaving.

"Fine!" I shouted back angrily, screaming in my mouth at the arrogant, bossy beta.

The following days were the same and no matter how much I improved I never hear a word of approval or praise from Coda's lips. I didn't even expect anything from him anymore but I still wished he would say something about improving.

I was in the middle of doing my jumping when Coda said, "I'm thirsty little brat, go grab me something to drink."

I balked, letting the jump rope fall behind me. I wanted to tell him he could get his own damn drink but I feared what his punishment would be.

I tossed the jump rope to the side and with a sigh I made my way to the trail. "This counts as one of your breaks by the way, so make it quick!" He hollered after me. Oh how I wanted to pick up a pine cone and whip it at his smug face, however that wouldn't help my cause so I ran to my house and grabbed a bottle of water before sprinting back to the lake.

I tossed it at him, hoping to hit him in the head but he caught it with one hand, never looking up from the book he was reading. "Twelve minutes and thirty eight seconds. Might as well use the rest of your five minute break." I huffed and sat down on the log, looking out at the serene view that had become my living hell.

"What's this? Water?" Coda snipped. "I don't want water. Go get me a soda."

I grumbled and stood up, not even surprised that this was happening. "Does this count as one of my breaks too?" I sassed back at him.

"Yes and that attitude just earned you another lap around the lake too. Chop chop."

The following day was the same, in the middle of my workout he stopped me and told me to go get him something to drink. This time I asked him what he wanted and he told me a lemonade but by the time I brought it back to him he had changed his mind and wanted a smoothie instead. A smoothie that I had to put together and blend for him using whatever frozen fruits were in the freezer. I learned to stop sassing him as all it ever did was earn me more work.

When I got home I packed a cooler filled with ice and many different drinks and stashed it in the woods not far from the lake. When Coda demanded that I get him a beverage I was ready. I brought back what he wanted in under two minutes much to his surprise. He immediately demanded something different and again I retrieved it from the cooler in under two minutes. He then told me he was hungry and wanted a sandwich.

I just couldn't win with him. Each day he wanted something different and each day I added something to my growing collection in the woods. By the end of the week he had a small table to place his drinks, two pillows, a round one and a square one, an umbrella over his head and a variety of sandwiches and drinks in my cooler. I made the mistake of asking him if he wanted me to build a palace for him while I was at it and earned myself one hundred extra pushups.

The days dragged on longer and longer as Coda was always able to think of some extra task for me to do, always made everything harder. Whether it was running around the lake until he told me to stop, or increasing ten pounds on my dumbbells or trying to make me do five pushups with one hand, and wouldn't let me stop until I could do five in a row. I didn't dare ask him when he would actually teach me to fight, I wondered if he ever would. By the end of two months I was a muscular as the other apprentice wolves, much to their dismay. I wasn't necessarily as strong as them, or as fast as them, but I was closer than they had ever expected.

When my thirteenth birthday came I had high hopes that today would be the day my wolf presented itself. It had too, I just couldn't be a human, there had to be something. When Coda came for me at dawn like he usually did, I was ready. I watched him walk up to the front door and opened it before he could let himself in.

"Growl at me." I commanded him.

He blinked, as much surprise as he'd ever show. He slid his hands into his pockets. "For what purpose? What's the point? You don't have a wolf, Cleo."

"You don't know that." I shot back. "Now growl at me."

He rolled his eyes. "Even if you did have a wolf, me growling won't awaken it. I wouldn't really be threatening you because you are no threat to me."

I had expected him to spout this, so I had come prepared. I opened the door up wide and wound my arm back before launching the smooth rock my father used as a paper weight at him. Because he hadn't expected it and we were in such close quarters the rock hit him square in the chest. "Growl at me!"

A low growl escaped his throat. "Little brat, what was that for?"

I picked up the rock again and threw it at his foot. Not expecting it the first time and definitely not expecting me to do it a second time the rock made harsh contact with his bare foot. He hissed at me, his eyes going black. "You are asking for it, pup."

"Growl at me!" I repeated my command.

He took a step forward but before he could cross over the threshold I slammed the door shut in his face. With a roar he ripped the door off its hinges and grabbed for me. Seizing ahold of my collar he brought me towards him and growled threateningly at me. I waited, waited for my wolf to make an appearance at the threat but nothing happened.

"Damnit! Damn everything!" I shouted causing Coda to release me.

"Don't swear little brat." He told me.

I crossed my arms and turned away, pouting. "You swear all the time and I'm always around you so its only natural I'd pick it up." I grumbled.

"Don't sulk because things didn't go your way. I told you they wouldn't." Coda only said in reply, ignoring my jab.

"Yeah, yeah, you told me so." I mumbled and made my way to the kitchen. "Are you hungry?" I asked him. "We have frozen waffles."

Coda obviously sensed my depression because he humored me. "Sure kid."

Sighing, I opened up the freezer and pulled out three frozen waffles and popped them in the toaster, making two for him and one for myself. "You're not as mean as I thought you'd be." I told him, voicing the thought that had been flying through my head for the last three weeks.

He raised a brow. "Is that so?"

I nodded. "You're just fussy is all."

"Fussy?" He voiced sharply.

I shrugged. "Yeah, you just get annoyed when things aren't done the way you like them. And you're fussy with people too. If anyone portrays a trait you don't like you snap at them. You don't like lazy, insubordinate, challenging, whining, self pity, or even pleasing. I have a feeling that you are a little meaner when you actually teach your apprentice how to fight."

He gave me a flat look.

"Okay a lot meaner." I conceded. "But right now, you aren't so bad." The waffles popped up from the toaster and I placed them on two plates sliding the butter and syrup over to Coda.

"Did you ever find your mate?" I asked him randomly. I have no idea where it came from but it was a question I really wanted an answer to.

Coda stopped drowning his poor waffles with syrup and glanced up at me. "Didn't your father tell you it's rude to be nosy?"

I flicked a slab of butter from the knife onto my waffle. "My father doesn't have much time to talk with me these days, so no."

He sighed and set down the syrup container and picked up the utensils I had placed before him. "Yes, I met her, she was already mated though." I nodded, it was uncommon for a male to find his mate already mated, usually once that happened they were off the market, but some cases did occur. It wasn't uncommon though for two of three males to all find the same mate, they just fought it out though, and whoever won mated the female. It sounded rough but that's they way our wolves nature was. "I wouldn't have wanted her anyway," Coda continued, "She was too delicate, she wouldn't have been able to handle an alpha."

"Do you ever want to find another mate?" I asked before swallowing a fork full of waffle.

He sawed into the waffles, his knife dripping with syrup when he put it down. "I don't think I'd mind either way. Having pups isn't something I've ever really wanted. I have years to decide, so I'm not really in any rush."

Coda was nearly eighty, although he looked late twenties. Werewolves had an extended life time usually living for nearly three hundred years if not killed during battle. "What if the female wanted to mate you but you didn't want her?" I asked.

Coda paused, the fork almost to his mouth. He turned to me, staring me down, "Are you asking out of curiosity, or for your own purposes?"

I looked away before he could see what was running through my head. Too bad he knew anyway.

He set his fork down, "Cleo." His voice was stern, not angry but more disappointed. "Cleo." He said again and I looked up at him. "Do you think your mate will reject you? Are you worried that's what is going to happen?"

I let my eyes fall back to the table as my shoulders rose and fell in a small shrug. "I don't know," I whispered. "I know I'd probably find another one if that did happen, but what good is a human mate anyway?"

"Look, Cleo, you know that your father would tear apart anyone who would dare hurt you. Don't worry about it okay? Someone who doesn't want you isn't worth your while anyway."

"So help me." I pleaded with him. "Help me to be someone who is wanted. I know you are putting off my actual training because of my father. I've been conditioning for nearly three months now. I know I'll always have to condition, but I want to learn for real, Coda. Be the wolf you are. Be the wolf my father picked you for. No more waiting, lay it on me. Make me hurt."

He shook his head. "You don't know what you are asking for, Cleo. That will be nothing like this. You've barely scratched the surface of difficult, of pain. Once we start I will not let you stop until you are broken like the other apprentices I had."

"I know what I am asking, Coda. This is the only way."

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