Twenty One | Hakota
Her smile was all I could see. Her sorrowful, broken smile that she struggled to maintain. The vulnerability in it almost made me abandon my plan and find another way.
I wanted her so badly, I wanted to be selfish and keep her so I would be able to hold her like this everyday. But leaders could not be selfish. I had to be the example for my pack, and that meant sacrificing. What kind of alpha would I be to carelessly trade their lives for that of one female? Albeit she was my mate, but I simply couldn't use that as an excuse.
If she had not been my mate I would have disposed of her long ago without so much as flinching, but I did not have the luxury of such an easy decision. I wondered if I was being punished for something. Was Lune making me pay for failing to preserve more of my race? Was she hurting me to make me pay penance for my failure?
No matter what it was, I couldn't afford to anger Lune anymore. I had to kill my mate to appease the goddess and prove to her that I could be the alpha of the lycans, that I could save our race.
One of my arms lifted away from her lower back. I stared into her eyes that were searching mine for something. I let my claws slide out, ready injure her should I not be able to break her neck.
At the same moment I was ready to wrap my hands around her neck and snap it, she rose up on her tip toes, her face inching up closer to mine.
And I hesitated, unable to resist the temptation to take her lips one last time. It was selfish of me, cruel and unfair to indulge myself when I was going to kill her right after.
Her lips halted just a hairsbreadth away from mine and I looked down at her in confusion but didn't even have the chance to voice my question when something sharp slashed across my throat.
The burning sting only surprised me at first and I was disoriented by trying to figure out what had happened, my fingers lifting to brush across my neck, only to come away sticky with crimson blood.
Then my legs pitched backwards, and I stumbled, crashing into the table behind me. Cleo only looked on with a cool expression on her face, not even blinking as I fell to the ground, choking on my own blood.
I stared up at my mate, confused as to how I had not seen this coming and dumbfounded that she had managed to kill me first.
I could do nothing but watch as she took that same blade stained with my blood and cut into her palm, making the blade slick with her own blood. My eyes narrowed in on my only hope for survival. She had purposely used a blade to hurt me so there was no chance of her DNA providing a way to heal me. That knife was my only chance.
She dropped it to the ground in front of me, and I used all of my strength to lurch forward for it but then she kicked it away, sending it skittering across the ground a few feet away.
"I think you owe me an apology, Hakota," she drawled, looking down at me with cold eyes that I had never seen before.
I twisted onto my side, reaching out for that knife that was just a few feet away.
"After all, you wrongly accused me of plotting to harm you."
I tried to pull myself towards the blade but my arms buckled beneath me and I choked on another mouthful of blood.
"Well, now you can actually believe those things with a bit of truth." Her voice was mocking, not an ounce of pain or regret and it was in that moment that I began to understand just what I had put her through that day.
Knowing that she felt no regret for her actions, that it was not a hard decision to make, broke something inside me. This is how she felt that day I had ripped out her throat and had never even looked back.
"This scene seemed eerily familiar doesn't it?"
I understood then that this was retribution. She was taking her revenge out on me by reenacting our last moments with the roles switched.
"But I think I gave you an unfair advantage. Your wound won't kill you for at least another fifteen minutes. That's almost double the time I had."
She stared at me with dead eyes, no glee or triumph was present there.
She was cold, cut off from me, and that hurt more than anything else.
I watched as she turned to leave, having momentarily forgotten the knife and only gazed up at my mate who extended me a courtesy I had not given her. She turned her head slightly, looking back at me and said, "That knife has my blood on it. Better hope you can reach it in time to heal yourself, or that one of your lycans will come and save you like Coda had to do with me."
Then she pushed aside the tent flap, leaving me here to die just as I had left her.
I choked again on my blood, coughing out a mouthful as I rolled onto my stomach, reaching for that knife that could save me. I dug my claws into the ground and pulled my heavy body towards it. I reached out again but it was just out of reach.
My vision was hazy, darkening at the edges. I groaned, a broken laugh bursting from my lips as I realized the irony of the situation. I stopped trying then, resigning myself to the fate I deserved. Just as I closed my eyes, Sitka tore through the tent, scanning the tent and spotting me on the ground.
"Get up!" He snarled at me, falling to his knees beside me. I forced my eyes to remain open and let my eyes slide over to him. His cerulean blue eyes bore into me with disappointment. "Is that it? She gets the best of you and you're done?" He gritted his teeth, looking at the knife that was less than a foot away but felt like miles to me.
"Get that damn knife Hakota, because I'm not going to do it for you." I growled at him, my eyelids fluttering in an attempt to shut but I wouldn't let them. "If you really can't reach the knife then I will sit here and watch you die." My claws sunk into the earth in anger.
The insubordination and disrespect! I was his alpha and he was just going to let me die? I bared my teeth at him in a warning but he only scoffed.
"You think that scares me? One little cut from your mate and you're a dying mess. Pull yourself together, brother, and then after you do that, feel free to also pull your head out of your ass."
The comment had me lurching forward ready to strangle Sitka. I grabbed his shoulder, digging my claws into him in order to keep myself from slipping back to the ground. "Pick...the damn...kn...ife...up." I struggled to get the words out but instead of looking intimidated, Sitka only pushed me off him.
"Or what? You'll bleed all over me?" He smarted.
I lunged again but for the knife this time, my hand wrapping around the dagger. I brought the weapon to my mouth, and licked the blade clean eager to get every drop of it so that I would heal faster so I could kill the bitch in front of me who just sat back and was more than content to watch me drown in my own blood.
Once the blade was clean I tossed it away from me and waited, breathing in deep ragged and enraged breaths as I felt my slit throat heal. A massive headache was pounding in my skull but that was nothing compared to the fury I felt for the sandy blonde male in front of me.
My chest heaved up and down as my breaths increased with my heartbeat as my heart started pumping more blood to speed up my healing process.
Sitka sat me up then, pulling me into a seated position and allowing me to lean on him as I healed. "That's it brother," his voice was softer now, the condescending sharpness gone as if had never been there. "Damn it Hakota, how could you be so careless?" Again there was no attitude in his tone, just concern and a bit of anger.
"I thought...would kiss..me..." I managed to grind out through my teeth as I focused on my breathing and the fading pain in my neck.
"Idiot," Sitka muttered, "you stupid idiot." He used his sleeve to wipe the blood away from my throat to inspect how healed it was.
"Did...she leave?" I panted out between breaths, looking at the tent entrance as if I could see through the fabric and spot my mate walking out of camp.
"I don't know," he admitted quietly, as if afraid of my answer. "But so what if she did?" he snapped, his anger not directed towards me but Cleo. "It's better for everyone."
"No," the ferociousness was lost in a groan as I tried to stand.
Sitka shot to his feet, ready to provide me support as I swayed on my feet. "What do you mean no?" he demanded, following my lead as I led us to the entrance of the tent. Just before my fingers brushed the flap Sitka swung me away. "No, you cannot go out there in this state. You will wait until you're healed or the men will start to doubt."
I growled, but could not argue with him as he led me to the cot and lowered me onto it.
"Do not..." I hissed from bending my neck too far forward. Swallowing down the pain I said, "do not let her leave." My voice was a pathetic raspy whisper.
"No Sitka! Do what I damn well tell you to do!"
My beta growled out in frustration but I knew he do as I said. I closed my eyes, exhausted from the healing and the oncoming migraine.
"What do you want me to do about the werewolf brat?" he asked me, keeping me from drifting off into an empty sleep.
"Keep him where he is," I replied, my eyes never opening.
"Syn is not going to like this," Sitka warned me.
"He can deal with it. If he won't punish his mate then I will."
Sitka let out a heavy sigh but said nothing more on the matter. "I meant what I said earlier, Hakota. You cannot let Cleo get the upper hand."
My eyes snapped open and a lupine snarl broke through my lips.
He lifted his hands up in a defensive gesture, "Look, she's your mate Hakota and that fact is never going to change. It didn't change when you left her as a small child and it didn't change when you came back years later and then left again and waited another three years before taking her." His hands balled into fists and he looked away, clenching his jaw. "And you need to come to grips with the fact that you and Cleo cannot and never will kill each other." He exhaled an angry breath before turning his light blue eyes to my dark ones, "If you really wanted her dead, you would have told me or one of the others to kill her." He swallowed and I understood how hard it was for him to say this next part. "I...I don't like her, Hakota. I think she's dangerous and bad for you but," he exhaled a shaky breath and looked away in embarrassment. "But if you love her and want her to be a part of this pack, then I will accept her."
"Love her? Sitka I--"
My beta flashed his teeth at me in a silent order to shut up and let him finish. I was so shocked I just blinked and closed my mouth.
He ran a hand through his hair. "You literally went insane when you thought you killed her. I know how you grieve Hakota, and I know how you deal with self loathing." He gestured around, "This is what you do. You inflict the destruction and loss you feel inside to the rest of the world. You drown yourself in war so you don't have to think of your actions and failure." He licked his lips in nervousness. "You were falling apart before me, brother, and I could do nothing about it." He lowered his head, "...nothing," he whispered. "Never in my life have I felt so useless, Hakota, as I have in these past two years. And I never want to feel that way again. None of us ever want to feel that way again." He unfurled his fingers, from their tightly clenched balls. "Frayah and Sani are having a pup, Syn is trying to work things out with Terrin and Roshan and Innoko are fighting about whether or not to have a pup because of this war. You and Cleo need to get your shit together and provide a unified front. You both need to be here as the alphas for the rest of this pack. We can't afford to have the two of you at war with each other. So work it out and stop deflecting. We never asked you to sacrifice your own happiness for us Hakota. Stop shouldering the burden and let us help. We are a pack, but it seems you've forgotten what that means."
Sitka straightened after he had said his peace. All I could do was stare back at my long time brother, the male who had stayed by my side through everything as he finally expressed what he'd been feeling and realize what a horrible alpha I had been.