Twenty Eight | Hakota
Cleo was back. I could smell her scent carried on the wind. I subtly scoured my camp for her, walking up and down the rows of tents, pretending that I was just making the rounds to see if everything was in order while in reality I was looking for the small female that was my mate.
When I didn't find her even after my second sweep I began to get anxious and that only riled me up more, making me more prone to violence. I hated being on edge but whenever Cleo was involved I couldn't avoid it.
Going back to my tent to sulk and brood was not an option. Even trying to busy myself gave me too much time to think. My thoughts always led to one thought that made bile rise in my throat.
She was with that werewolf. She had to be.
My claws kept puncturing into my palms but the sting did not bother me.
What bothered me was the feeling of jealousy.
Lycans didn't feel petty emotions like that, not unless their mate was involved and jealousy was the feeling I loathed the most.
It didn't matter who she was with, be it Terrin, Syn, or even Sitka who I knew loathed her. Hell, even her spending time with Frayah sometimes invoked the feeling.
It was completely ridiculous, I knew it, but no matter what I told myself I could never force the feeling down.
I think what pissed me off the most was that Cleo didn't seem to be suffering from it to the extent I was.
Hell, Sky had rarely gotten under her skin and the female had constantly been flirting with me.
It wasn't until I caught another strong whiff of my mate that I was able to pull myself out of my brooding. I turned to her scent, expecting to find her only to see Sitka.
I frowned in confusion and stepped towards the male, and realized I wasn't going crazy and that my mate's scent was rolling off him in waves. I didn't even get angry that he smelled so strongly of Cleo because if she had been with Sitka that meant she wasn't with the werewolf.
Relief flooded through me and I was finally able to breathe, the tight constriction in my chest loosening and fading away. Sitka had a pensive look on his face, one he only got when he was in deep thought. It instantly put me on edge.
"Do you trust me?" He asked only making me more concerned.
"Trust you?" I repeated, "Sitka why would you--"
He shook his hand and held up a hand to stop me from speaking, "Do you trust me Hakota?"
I was about question him again but seeing his troubled face and noting his serious tone I decided against it and answered him. "Of course I trust you." He nodded slowly to himself and that tight feeling in my chest returned but for a different reason entirely. "Sitka what--" I tried again but my beta snapped his eyes to mine and interrupted me.
"Cleo gave me a proposition."
I closed my mouth and swallowed not liking where this was going. "Okay..."
"She asked me to send Terrin, Innoko and half our army to Frayah and Sanni. Syn and Roshan are there too as are the twins."
"What? But the twins are supposed to be--"
"She called them back, or she had Roshan or Sani do it anyway."
"Why would she do that?" I was more curious than angry. Even though Cleo had overstepped her boundaries there was nothing I could so about it now and I would rather know her reasoning for it than waste more energy being mad about it.
"She wants them to protect the pups, and she wants us all to be there for each other, be a complete pack like we were two years ago."
"What about you? What about the war?" I demanded, not hearing him mention his name or the war yet.
"She asked me to stay here with the remaining troops and hold our position until she comes back."
"And what about me?" I asked dryly, "has she decided to exile me from my own pack?" Now the irritation was present in my voice. Who was she to call my war effort to a halt? I was almost done with my campaign, I was so close to ruling the three kingdoms and she thought she had the authority to bring it to a standstill?
"She wants to take you with her back to the others."
My eyes narrowed, "And what was your answer to this proposition of hers?"
Sitka's momentary hesitation told me his answer before the word even left his mouth, "...yes."
I inhaled a deep breath to keep myself from throttling my beta. When I was sure that I could speak calmly I asked, "And what," I inquired levelly, "was your reasoning behind this?"
Sitka's tense body relaxed momentarily at my contained anger. "It's in the pack's best interest. The war isn't going anywhere Hakota. It will be right here until we come back to it. I can't say the same for our pack."
"The best interest of the pack is to kill the threat. The threat," I said, pointing towards the entrance of our camp where the Lunar forces had been pushed back, "is out there."
My beta shook his head and took a step so he was nose to nose with me. "No, Hakota," he denied my claim and stabbed a finger at my chest, "the greatest threat is right here."
I snarled and pushed him away, furious he was deeming me the most prominent danger to my own pack.
"I asked you if you trusted me and you said yes. So trust me when I tell you that this needs to be done sooner rather than later."
I took in another deep breath, exhaling it out in a low growl. Although I didn't agree with him I knew I had to put my pack's interest before my own. Even though I believed that taking out the threat was more important, if my pack didn't feel the same, if they all had the same thoughts as Sitka, I couldn't push forward. They would think I was ignoring our own pack again if they didn't see it my way. If they didn't believe I was attacking the Lunars for the safety of my pack but rather my own benefit, there was no point in fighting the Lunars at all.
"Go get Innoko," I said, "I'll tell her about this new development."
"I already did. I already split the troops in half as well and have them getting ready to march."
"You decided without even consulting me to see if I agreed?" I snarled, my anger coming back in full force. "What if this is Cleo's plan to leave us vulnerable for her Hunters or the Lunars to march right in? Did you stop to think that maybe Coda didn't just show up out of the blue with a Lunar commander no less?"
My beta did not flinch away from me, "This is the thinking that got us here in the first place. You always assume the worst about Cleo and it always comes back to bite you in the ass."
"Don't you lecture me," I hissed, grabbing him by the back of his neck and forcing his face close to mine. "You had the same skepticism, you fed me those thoughts!"
"I never said I didn't," he kept his eyes locked on mine, "but at least now I can recognize it and not make the same mistakes. Besides you just agreed to it as well so you obviously don't think that Cleo has ill intentions."
"That doesn't matter, Sitka. I am alpha and I make the calls, not you. You are to consult with me. It doesn't matter if I agree with you in the end or not. It's part of the trust between us. I listen to you and respect your advice, and you don't just carry out your orders because you think I will disagree."
"Cleo is also my alpha," he replied calmly.
I froze, taken by surprise at his words before I exploded. "She's your alpha?" I shouted, "Since when? When the hell did you decide to declare her your alpha?" I was confused, hurt, and angry. He'd never liked Cleo, he'd warned me away from her for years and now suddenly he had changed his mind? Why? "You don't like the way things are going so you abandon me for someone who better suits your desires? Do our decades of brotherhood mean nothing to you?"
I didn't know if I was more furious or hurt by his statement. I knew I could always count on Sitka to have my back but now he had turned on me too.
"Don't spit on my years of devotion like that," Sitka snarled, but I could hear hurt in his own words as well. "You are my family, my brother."
"But you'll trade me for her anyway."
Sitka grabbed my shoulder, giving me a rough shake. "I'm not trading anyone," he said. "You are my alpha too Hakota, but not right now. You are not the same, you can't lead us in this state. The only reason I agreed to follow Cleo's demands is because she promised to repair the mess you are."
I knocked his hand away, and turned my back, "I don't need to be fixed."
Sitka only grabbed both sides of my face, forcing me to look at him. "Stop it Hakota. You know I am loyal to you, you know I always will be. This is what's best for you. You need--"
"Stop thinking you know what's best for me," I snapped.
"This isn't just me Hakota, the whole pack feels the same way. Even Innoko agrees with me."
My anger vanished completely and was replaced with heart wrenching betrayal. It was like a slap in the face. My own pack had turned against me, rallied behind Cleo to demote me from the pack.
"You all feel this way?" I croaked, my throat clogging with unshed tears.
Sitka nodded slowly.
This was it. Lune's final punishment for failing my race, for failing to be the last alpha of the lycans. She had taken my first family from me, then my lands, my home, my mate, my pack and now my bother, the last of my family.
"Fine," I said, feeling the fight drain out of me.
I had done what I thought was right. I had sacrificed everything for the good of my pack, what I believed would keep them safe but it didn't matter.
I felt something deep within me, something I had never felt before because it had always been blocked by the alpha in me. My sense of responsibility, duty and leadership had hidden the switch I now felt. And for whatever reason I knew what would happen if I flipped that switch.
I knew the consequences, I knew that I may never be able to turn it back on once it was off but I flipped it anyway.
I collapsed to the ground, my legs giving out and sending me to my knees. I could feel my strength, my power, cut in half and sucked inside the door that had opened with the flip of the switch. At the same time everything in me was being absorbed, other things were crashing into me as they flooded out of the same door.
All of my alpha attributes left me. I knew I no longer had the same ability to command and lead as I had, I knew that I was no longer as strong, that I did not hold the same dominance.
Now I felt hollow, I didn't have any ideas or notions to help my pack. I didn't feel the possessiveness or urgency to protect them like I had.
I could no longer feel the members of my pack, the tie to each of them that I could communicate through. All of it was gone.
My arms quivered with the effort of holding me up, keeping me from face planting into the dirt. Violent shivers racked up and down my body and I could do nothing but let the convulsions take their course. My stomach churned and emptied its contents on the ground as I vomited.
Sitka was on his knees at my side, his hands ghosting over my body and going rigid as he felt the change. "What did you do?" Sitka breathed, his hands hovering over me as if he could revert what I had done.
I coughed, swallowing down the bile left in my mouth. "I gave you what you wanted," I rasped, refusing to meet his eyes, "I stopped being your alpha."