Twenty Five | Hakota
When life hits you hard, hit it back harder.
That was my response to any situation life threw at me that I did not enjoy.
And the alpha male that had walked through my camp without so much as a word of protest or halt from my soldiers was something I certainly did not enjoy.
I shouldered through my soldiers that had swarmed around the hunter but backed up with every step he took towards them. At least they had enough sense to be watching his every move, and have numbers among them in case the hunter started to attack.
I would have, however, preferred that they already have the male in chains and detained.
But no, instead they let him walk around my camp like he owned the place, practically leading him to the center of our camp.
Sitka was by my side as we shoved into the open space surrounding the hunter. My soldiers instantly showed signs of relief at my arrival, and backed away from the hunter but stayed within distance should I call them to order.
It was only then that I realized the hunter had another male behind him. Though scenting the other male I could tell he was not a hunter but rather a werewolf.
The hunter seized me up, his eyes running up and down my figure, a sneer pulling back his lips from his teeth, putting his canines on show. He was obviously noting the fact that I had lost weight judging from the way his eyes lingered on my clothes that did not hug as tightly to my body as they used to. His eyes scanned my face where the noticeable red veins stood out from the whites of my eyes, and the bruised look of the skin beneath my eyes. His lip curled at my over grown facial hair that I never kept at anything more than a five o' clock shadow if I kept any at all. My stringy long strands of dirty blonde hair that were just another sign adding to my obvious state of disarray.
"Where is she?" he growled out, his eyes finally landing on mine.
I could see the anger within them, but I knew it was more directed at Cleo's choice to come here alone than an accusation at me for her being here.
"I am under no obligations to tell you anything hunter, least of all when you barge into my territory uninvited." I didn't care that if Coda and I went head to head, one on one, I stood a pretty good chance of losing due to my deterioration.
Instead of the alpha male responding like I had expected it was the werewolf with him that spoke. "Your territory?" The male behind the hunter took a step forward. "This is Lunar territory, you're the one who's here uninvited."
I let my eyes lazy slide over to the male. For a werewolf he was on the stronger side, not too bad on the eyes either but he would be easily squashed beneath my foot if I so desired. I gave the male a hard look before dismissing him entirely as unimportant, a greater insult than anything I could have said with words.
The werewolf bristled and opened his mouth but Coda silenced him with a look.
A sly smile pulled at my lips. "That's right Coda, muzzle your dog."
Of course my attempt at provoking the werewolf succeeded and the lesser male flashed his teeth at me to which I flashed my own, letting my claws slide out and pushed out a wave of pure dominance from my body.
My soldiers weren't expecting my sudden display of power and the force caused some of them to stumble back and others to whimper at the weight I was pushing down on them.
The werewolf in front of me only gritted his teeth, the only sign of internal struggle.
I smirked and sent out another wave, earning a grunt from him by the added strain and causing some of the werewolves to fall to a knee.
"Enough," Coda said tiredly. "I just want to know where she is Hakota."
My smirk morphed into a look of contempt at ruining my fun. "She's not here," I told him.
"Then where is she?" He demanded, taking a step forward.
"The hell if I know," I growled, standing my ground.
"What do you know then?" He hissed back.
Sitka stepped in then, noticing the situation was not defusing but just the opposite. "She'll be coming back Hunter, but you are not welcome to stay here until then." Coda's answering low rumble told us enough about his displeasure but instead of answering fire with fire Sitka merely added, "Besides Hunter, I am under the assumption she left without telling you. There is a reason for everything she dose, and not wanting you to follow her was obviously one of those reasons. You know as well as I that Cleo will fight her own battles and clean up her own messes."
I was impressed with Sitka's display of diplomacy. We were never ones to let our words fight our battles when claws and teeth were more than ample to push across a point and always succeeded and much more time efficient.
"Except for the last time where I was cleaning up the mess of her blood off the ground from where your alpha ripped out her goddamn throat!" Coda snapped his teeth in a sign of aggression, the bite in his words more than enough warning that he was ready to spring at me.
"Get out of my territory," I told Coda lowly.
"I will not leave her in your hands again," the hunter snarled.
"Cleo's a big girl, she can make her own decisions," I answered back.
The hunter balled his hands into fists, doing his best to keep from springing at me. "The mate bond blinds her to reason and clouds her better judgement."
While his logic was sound considering the fact I had ripped my mark off Cleo's shoulder the last time I had seen her and she had still come back and not killed me even when she'd had the perfect chance, I hated the way he was trying to take responsibility of her. She was my mate. "So she needs you to tell her how to think? What are you, her father?"
"Yes," he seethed, the words pushed through his clenched teeth. "And I'll keep her by my side before I ever let her stand by yours."
I lunged but was held back by Sitka's interception. He used his shoulder as a solid barrier between me and the hunter. I snarled, pushing against my beta who kept me in place. "And what? Is that lesser male behind you the one you've picked for her?"
I carelessly flung out the words, expecting him to only scoff and roll his eyes but when the hunter only clenched his jaw and did not respond, it finally dawned on me who this male was.
And my rage only intensified.
"You," I snarled out, my voice turning to a lupine hiss not entirely human.
I fought harder against my beta who cursed out a dark curse, his claws digging deeply into my shoulder, drawing blood but doing little to deter me. "Hakota," Sitka said calmly, "you need to calm down."
"I'm going to carve your eyes out of your skull and make you choke on them! I'm going to filet your skin from your bones, pull your teeth and fingernails out one by one, break every bone in your body, gut you, and then burn what's left of you."
"Hakota," Sitka said again. "You cannot kill another one. Remember what we talked about?" I didn't respond, and the murderous spark remained in my eye but I did not shove against him again. "Trust," he answered for me, "we talked about trust Hakota. You need her to trust you again and killing this one is not going to help you."
"I don't care," I growled out.
"Yes you do," Sitka instantly replied. "This is a good opportunity. Show her she can trust you Hakota. If this isn't Lune dropping a golden opportunity in your lap I don't know what is."
"He slept with her," I hissed, "he had sex with my mate."
"I know," Sitka said gently, "but Cleo made that choice too Hakota."
I snarled, flashing my teeth at the werewolf, wishing I could tear through his throat. A hot stinging sensation pressed at the back of my eyes, and I pushed the foreign feelings down as I swallowed thickly. I gnashed my teeth at the male, before taking a step back, pulling myself out of Sitka's grip. I took a few moments to reign in my temper, to calm the rapid beating of my heart. With my eyes on the ground, my teeth clenched so tightly I thought they may shatter I ground out, "Cleo will come and go as she pleases. You may stay here until she comes back but if she asks you to leave I will not tolerate a second more of your presence." I didn't have to look to know that Coda was already nodding in acceptance of my offer. "As for that werewolf," my teeth grated on each other, "keep him away from me or I will not be to blame for his death. And if he even thinks about going back to the Lunars after being in my camp, he'll be dead before he makes it past the last row of tents. Do I make myself clear?"
The werewolf was wise enough to stay silent as Coda answered, "Fair enough, Lycan."
With a grunt I twisted on my heel and left, shoving my way through my soldiers, knocking into one so roughly he tripped over his own feet as I sent him careening to the side.
I was glad Sitka was now following me but instead speaking more with the unwelcome guests and probably laying down some more rules and throwing in a few threats. I simply walked out of the camp, knowing it was safe in Sitka's hands, probably better off in his than mine own even.
That damn alpha hunter.
The bastard werewolf.
Again that foreign feeling of a closed throat and the stinging behind my eyes confused me. This time however I could not push it away.
I took in a ragged breath, willing myself to keep walking forward and not turn around and destroy that male that had put his hands on my mate.
I didn't deserve her.
Obviously she felt the same because she gave herself to another male.
I had already known this though. Terrin had told me as much but even then knowing wasn't really knowing. To have that male standing in front of me suddenly made it very much more real.
And of course I couldn't blame Cleo. I definitely couldn't resent her for it or hold it against her because could I even call myself her mate?
No I couldn't.
I had been a dishonorable male, a sorry excuse for an alpha and a horrible mate. I was a massive failure all around and I did not deserve to have a mate at all. I didn't deserve to have some to call my own.
Cleo was her own person.
She didn't belong to me, she wasn't mine. I had to stop thinking of her as my mate because for some reason that made me feel entitled to her. Maybe if I stopped thinking about her that way I would stop being a screw up of an arrogant asshole.
I had to do this the human way, with feelings and no bond to help. That was the only way I'd ever get her in the end. I had to apologize, admit I was wrong and beg her to give me a second chance and walk away if she wouldn't. I had my chance, I had my shot and I blew it and it was up to Cleo now and there was not a thing I could do otherwise.
I didn't even now where to start on this road to redemption anyway.
Having a much needed conversation with her seemed like a good start but words failed me.
I know I needed to apologize, to admit why I had done it but first I needed to understand it myself.
Before I could show Cleo a part of me I didn't know, I had to first discover it myself.
The mate, the companion within me had never been present once in my life.
I had always been the alpha, the leader. Even when Cleo was at my side the whole thing had been a white lie. I had loved her, I felt real vulnerability when I was with her, that was true, but that was all when I was still the alpha. I had still pushed her around, treated her like a member of my pack more than anything else, disciplined her like I would a pack member.
So I had to shut that part of me out and dig up the other half of me I had never used. But to do that, I had to discover who and what that other part of me was first.
That truly seemed like a good place to start.