Twenty Two | Cleo
Embraced in a hug that rivaled the intensity of my mate's I struggled to gasp out the words, "Syn...let go."
The lycan only squeezed me tighter. "Thank Lune, you really are alive." He nuzzled into my neck, breathing me in as if to make sure I was really real and here. "For the love of Lune, hug me back woman!" He growled into my ear when I remained stiff as a board in his hold.
With a laugh I wrapped my own arms around him and hugged him back, a warm feeling filling me. I realized just how much I had missed the grey eyes lycan these past two years.
"Thank you for coming," Syn breathed. "I was so worried that he'd follow through, that he'd hurt Terrin if you didn't come."
"It's gotten that bad that even you are losing trust in him?" I asked, alarmed to hear that Hakota was becoming so unhinged his own pack members were losing faith in him.
Syn pulled away, his arms dropping to his sides. His stormy eyes looked deep into mine, a grave seriousness in them. "He's changed, Cleo. He is not the same person anymore. Something in him snapped and the beast came out. He let it consume him and he is no longer the alpha I once knew."
Hearing this made me hesitant to ask my next question, afraid of what the answer would be. "So the rumors, about him going mad, they're true?"
Syn nodded solemnly. "There have been good days, bad days, and really bad days. The good days were near nonexistent these last few months and the really bad days happened too often. What he did to you Cleo," he cupped my cheeks in his hands, gazing into mine to prove his sincerity, "there is no excuse for what he did, I know that and I'm not making excuses for him, but when he," he swallowed and let one hand run down my neck to where he pushed the turtle neck down to see the scars. He stared at them grimly before raising his eyes to mine. "When he tore his mark from your neck, he tore out a piece of himself as well."
I reached up and grabbed Syn's wrists, giving them a comforting squeeze. I wanted him to let it all out. He had not had a reliable alpha for years and now he needed someone to confide in. He needed a friend to talk to. "It's alright Syn, tell me."
"He was wrecked with guilt. He will never admit he that he regrets his choice, or that he was wrong to do it, but he hates himself for it."
"That doesn't make any sense."
The pressure of his hands increased and he gave my face a little shake. "It does, Cleo. It does." His eyes were now full of passion, reverence and respect replacing what had once been sorrow and loss. "Hakota's mind works in a very simple way. Protect the pack. That's it, that's all he's ever known. From the day he was born he was taught to look after his fellow lycans, to save them and keep them safe. If It ever came down to his life or the pack's he will always choose the pack's."
Syn was silent then, waiting me to make the connection myself, to see and understand what he was telling me.
"That's what he did that day," I said softly to myself.
The lycan nodded. "Yes Cleo, he chose us over you, over him. He believed you were dangerous, that you were a threat to the life of the rest of us, so he killed you."
I pulled away from Syn then, refusing to let my mate off so easily. He had really hurt me and such a simple and understandable excuse was not acceptable. How was I supposed to be angry at him for thinking he was protecting the lives of his family? How could I begrudge him that? "No." I told Syn fervently shaking my head. "No, no, no."
"No Syn!" I stepped back pointing a finger at him. "He told me I meant nothing to him! He told me I was his biggest mistake and greatest regret! You can't just brush that off as part of his antics to 'protect the pack'." I made mocking air quotes.
Syn flinched at this unknown knowledge and looked at the ground guiltily. "I didn't know about that," he admitted quietly.
"Yeah well I can't forget, no matter how hard I try," I muttered.
"He was in The Wild for a week after that day," Syn murmured, throwing an unknown term at me.
"The Wild?" I hedged, curious as to what that meant. I had read through numerous textbooks, detailed studies of lycans my father had and had never come across the term.
He cleared his throat uncomfortably, obviously not meaning to have said that last part out loud. For a moment I believed he was going to pretend he hadn't said anything when he drew in a deep breath and began to explain, "When a lycan alpha is put under great duress and they are gravely injured at that time, they are pushed into 'The Wild'. Basic instincts come out and their emotions are intensified and blown out of proportion. A spark of anger can turn them into a raging monster and result in a bloodbath. A death of a loved one can completely shut them down and drive them into a vegetative state. A sliver of fear can turn into a full blown paranoia that drives them insane."
I swallowed, amazed I had never heard of this and quite honestly I was frightened to learn of this. A lycan being ruled over completely by emotion was a very dangerous thing. There was a reason they had ironclad self control and will and didn't experience things like jealousy or lust unless their mate was involved.
"Nearly, dying that day, watching you almost die, and all of us about to meet our ends, drove him into the The Wild. He wasn't really himself that day and I know that is no excuse," he clenched his jaw, showing his frustration for his alpha's actions, "and I hope you will give him hell for it," he gave me a small smile and I gave him one in return, "but I also hope you can one day forgive him as well."
Syn had unknowingly made my mission ten times easier with that single sentence. My end game was to prove everyone wrong, to prove Hakota wrong, and show them that the lycan alpha and the hunter alpha could be true mates.
I wanted to stand on top of the world with him, I wanted to be a part of this pack, this family. I was working on a game plan, trying to a figure out a way to get the pack to accept me. They were the key to my success because as long as Hakota believed that I was a danger to them I was never going to convince him that we could be real mates. If his whole pack was backing me he would no longer be able to hide behind his excuse.
Syn was already on my side, Frayah and Roshan would be my next closest lycans to turn, the twins probably after them. Sani, Innoko and Sitka would be my challenge. I got an instant headache just thinking about the effort it would take to get Sitka to like me let alone trust me. Slashing Hakota's throat just now probably was not helping my case but Hakota had needed a little payback.
"Do you think you could ever forgive him or is that not a possibility?" Syn asked me in a small voice, shaking me from my thoughts.
"I suppose it depends on if he earns it," I admitted truthfully. "I have no intention of just giving him my forgiveness, he's going to work for it."
"But there's a chance...?"
The hopefulness in his expression nearly broke me heart and made me give in right then and there and say I already forgave my mate for his hurtful actions. "There's a chance," I confirmed, earning a relieved smile from the grey eyed lycan.
"Oh thank Lune," he exhaled under his breath. "At least there's hope of forgiveness for one of us."
My ears picked up on the last part, even though I knew I wasn't supposed to hear that. "Terrin's giving you a hard time?"
Syn froze before a sheepish smile spread across his face and he rubbed the back of his neck awkwardly. "You could say that," he mumbled.
I raised a brow, "Is he being a brat again?"
Syn sucked in his lower lip, "No, Cleo, it's not his fault. It's understandable that he--"
"You were probably trying to help him but he let his ego get in the way and make a mess of things. There's a reason he's tied to a pole and muzzled Syn, and I guarantee that it's not you, but his own smart mouth that got him there."
Syn averted his eyes, looking doubtful. He didn't believe me even though he should.
I grabbed his shoulder, digging my fingers in firmly to get him to look at me. "You are too nice, Syn. When Terrin acts like a child, you need to treat him like one. Discipline him, punish him, scold him," I waved my hand randomly in the air, "I don't care," I said, "but do something other than let him walk all over you." I loved Terrin, really I did. He was like the annoying younger brother I never had but sometimes he grated on my nerves. He pouted and whined, wanting to be treated as an adult but then acted like a child. I knew part of it had to do with his lack of a real childhood. He'd never really had any real responsibilities and had never needed to grow up and I spoiled him too much honestly. I let him act recklessly and then bailed him out when he got in trouble even though I should have let him figure it out himself and get out of his own mess.
It was time for Terrin to start taking responsibility for his actions. He needed to learn and who better to teach him than his mate? Syn needed to learn how to deal with the unruly werewolf anyway.
"Look, Syn," I lightly grabbed his chin tilting it down so he met my eyes. "You and Terrin are my favorite two people on this whole planet. I know Terrin, and I'd like to think I know you, but take my advice on this," I paused to strengthen my incoming words. "Put Terrin in his place. He doesn't understand a damn thing about the strength of a lycan mate bond. Don't let him make the same mistakes I did and try and fight it." I gripped his chin harder with each statement. "Don't let him hurt you." My eyes bored into his with an intensity that he returned as he absorbed my words. "Make him understand."
With that I let him go, stepping back to give him space to fully comprehend my words and what I was trying to tell him. After giving him a moment to let it sink in I asked, "So what do you want to do?"
Syn looked at his hands, staring at his open palms before curling his fingers into fists as he cemented his resolve. He met my eyes with a burning fire in his own. I smiled a little at seeing the effect my words had on him. It seemed he had really taken my advice to heart.
"Come with me?" He asked and I nodded in response.
Together we made our way back to the five poles, the middle of which Terrin was still chained to, sitting on the ground with a scowl on his face. The scowled quickly morphed into one of relief as we came over to him.
I stood a little ways back as Syn approached his mate.
Terrin immediately glared at his lycan mate as Syn took off the muzzle. I had half a mind to walk over to him and give his ear a good pinch for the attitude he was displaying. Obviously he had worked out that being cruel to his mate and guilt tripping the poor lycan worked well in his favor even though his actions and words hurt Syn. Well he was going to have to find a new strategy because I doubted Syn was going to let that fly anymore.
Once the muzzle was off of the werewolf, Syn straightened, leaving the rest of the chains on his mate.
"What are you doing?" Terrin demanded, yanking at his chains in annoyance, "take the rest of them off!"
I observed as Syn merely remained silent, staring down his mate. When Terrin realized his intimidation attempt was not going to make his mate budge he turned his gaze on me, the angry scowl turning to one of pleading. "Cleo," he whined, rattling his chains.
My eyes slid from the werewolf to the lycan. I would let Syn do as he would, Terrin was his responsibility now and I trusted him with Terrin. I knew he would not do anything to harm Terrin--severely anyway.
Turning my attention back to the werewolf I drawled, "You're the idiotic moron who let the lycans catch you. I'm only here to save your sorry ass. You can sit here for as long as I choose while you think about your thoughtless actions."
"Really, Cleo? A timeout?" Terrin sneered with his usual attitude.
Just before I was about to snap a reply a low voice rumbled from behind me, "A befitting punishment for the child you behave as."
I whirled around and came face to face with a red haired male. "Roshan!" I gasped.
"Bhanrigh." He replied softly, giving me the slightest of smiles. "You have finally arrived. I assume you have given Hakota a proper greeting in response to his farewell?"
A laugh burst from my lips at his small smile. I knew right then that Roshan was already on my side. He knew what I had done to his alpha and seemed rather pleased with me. "Indeed I did."
"Today is a day filled with good news," Roshan replied.
Syn and I both inclined our heads, silently beckoning for Roshan to deliver his news. "Frayah finally gave birth," he told us. My eyes widened. Frayah was well past her due date and must have been worried all this time.
"The child waited until balance was restored in the pack, she waited for her family to become complete."
My heart fluttered at his words. To hear him call me family made my blackened heart jump in my chest and spark a little red color in the center.
Hakota was shoved to the back of my mind. Syn, Roshan, Frayah, her pup, and Terrin, they were my main focus now, they were my family and I was sinking my claws into them. If Hakota and I never became a mated pair that was fine with me. It would be nice if we could find a way to make it work and get along but if it didn't, that was fine too.
I was the alpha female of this pack and the lycans were my family no matter what Hakota had to say about it and I wasn't going to relinquish my claws from them for anything.
With a beaming smile I asked Roshan the obvious question. "When can I meet the newest member of my pack?"