Nine | Hakota
The front lines were as miserable as always. Worse even, because for some reason the werewolves didn't enjoy a good fight as much as the lycans did. During our war with the hunters, battle camps were a place of brotherhood and history. It was here that stories were shared and memories were made. I supposed blood lust was more a part of the hunters and lycans than the werewolves. A shame really, the werewolves might learn a thing or two about the meaning and purpose of a pack.
They were becoming a lot like the humans, adopting their ideology about everyone being equal and letting their greed dictate their actions. This was the effect of the lycans being absent from the top of society. Things were changing and not for the better. From what I'd understood from Innoko's tirade is that the werewolves were growing hesitant about fighting the Lunars and called it 'pointless killing'. They suggested we talk it out and come to an agreement.
It was pathetic.
We had claws for a reason, and that reason wasn't for talking peacefully and compromising. The strong were rewarded in life. They could take what they wanted, have everything they ever needed. I was disgusted that there was even talk about laws and making it illegal to kill people in order to settle a dispute or grievance.
I stormed through the camp, Sitka to my left and Innoko on my right. Werewolves looked up from their tents only to immediately look away from the intimidating image we projected. Sitka was catching me up on the latest happenings, informing me of the territory we conquered and the estimated numbers of Lunars we were up against.
I was only half listening, my eyes narrowing in on the tents filled with the wounded. There were more occupants there than there should have been. The Lunars should not have been able to stay this resilient and retaliate.
"What are the battles like?" I asked coldly, cutting Sitka off.
My friend followed my gaze to the wounded. "Closer than they should be. Our troops aren't putting their hearts into it."
"Well then maybe we should instigate their fear."
It was something the lycans had always done to those werewolves who fought under our command. We gave them incentive since they didn't seem to love the blood of battle as much as my kind did. We made examples of the ones who tried to get out of fighting by sending them into the most dangerous situations as bait. Those that were cowards and deserters we took care of ourselves.
Sitka grinned slyly, seeing where I was heading with this. "What do you have in mind?"
I halted and met Innoko's eyes and the Sitka's. "During the next battle, every one of our troops will be present. They will watch as the four of us rip apart our enemies. Let it all out, hold nothing back. I want them to see what it's like being on the side across from us. The fear that they could be the ones beneath our claws should be enough to spark a little motivation."
Sitka grilled my forearm and pulled me into an embrace. "Like old times?"
I nodded, "Like old times."
"By the way," Innoko looked around the camp, "where is Syn?"
"Worrying," I replied. Seeing the perplexed looks on their faces I added, "Syn needs this battle as much as we do. He is having some mate problems that I am trying to resolve."
Innoko's smile was the brightest thing I had seen since Frayah had informed us of her pregnancy. That had been months ago.
A smile tugged at the corner of Sitka's lips but then he frowned. "Why didn't he tell any of us?"
"Like I said there are current complications, that I am taking care of to eliminate."
"Oh no, is she already mated?" Innoko's smile melted away into sadness. It was really hard for lycans to receive the same love and care they gave their own mates in return when they killed their mate's previous lover. In many cases where the lycan had to eliminate a competitor who already held their mate's heart, it would take years for the lycan to earn forgiveness from their mate and even longer for them to move forward. Luckily, Terrin was not mated he just wasn't afraid to show Syn that he had options and rather enjoyed his alternatives. The little brat was putting Syn into a depression that I couldn't handle right now.
"No," I replied. "I think that would have made this easier in all actuality. The issue is the little mongrel doesn't want to accept the reality of the circumstance and it's kind of turning into the whole Cleo situation." Only once the words were out of my mouth did I fully make the connection. Terrin and Cleo had been close. Terrin was perhaps the only outside friend she had and Terrin didn't have anyone else besides her. By killing Cleo, I may have destroyed this for Syn. If Terrin held the death of Cleo against us, if he hated Syn because of what I did, I may not be able to fix this. I killed the only family the werewolf had and now in a cruel twist of fate, he was mated to Syn.
"What?" Sitka knew I had came upon a realization.
"I think my plan just backfired," I admitted. If Terrin despised us as much as I'd thought, he'd probably want to help the Lunars and I had basically offered him the chance on a platter. I shook my head, I needed to focus on this battle first and worry about the implications of my actions later.
I twirled a finger in the air, "Let's move out. I assume you know who the leaks in the camp are?" A tactical strategy that lycans kept secret, was our use of enemy spies. We weeded them out quickly but let them stay, strategically feeding them information to the enemies to get what we wanted.
Sitka nodded in confirmation that he had taken care of it.
"I want everyone to know that we are moving out. I want the Lunars to be prepared for the next border fight. I want them to know that we are bringing all the troops, I want them to know when and where we will be arriving. The bloodier this battle the more successful in the end."
My lycans bowed their heads and left to carry out my orders. I took in a deep breath, turning in a full circle to look at the war camp. My eyes glazed over the female sitting casually on a woodblock, kicking aside a piece of firewood that had been split. My gaze snapped back to her when it clicked who I just saw.
Cleo grinned maliciously at me, the glee in her eyes all to prevalent. "I bet you're starting to wish you hadn't killed me." She swiped her foot across the ground, making a design in the dirt. "Dealing with me would have been easier than dealing with everything my death brought upon you." She stood and strolled over to me, "I mean, just take me for example," she pulled at a piece of her hair. "You feel so guilty for killing your own mate that your mind created me in a way to cope. I'm only here so that you can talk to me and explain to yourself over and over again that you don't regret your choice to take my life. You keep trying to convince yourself what you did was the right thing, but here's the thing," she placed her hand on my cheek, having to stand on her tiptoes to do so even though my head was lowered. "If you truly believe those lies you tell yourself, I wouldn't be here." She landed back down on the heels of her feet, her hand dropping away but the phantom feeling of her touch still lingering.
I squeezed my eyes shut, hoping when I opened them she would be gone. When I lifted my lids she was still there, blinking at me with a smirk. With a frustrated growl I walked away from her, heading towards the privacy of my tent. Being as stubborn as she always was she followed me. The tent flap closed behind her, sealing us away from everyone else.
We were alone, but instead of feeling safer, I felt more endangered. "I didn't create you," I told her vehemently, "you are my punishment for betraying the mating bond."
Cleo laughed, brushing her hand along the furs on my cot. "Even if that was true, it would still be a lie." Her hand left the furs and she came towards me, her fingers gliding down my chest. "Some part of you still wants me to be alive and here with you. Why do you think I'm so life like?" I could do nothing but stare down at her. "I look exactly same, down to every scar and every hair." She pushed me back, steering me towards the cot. The back of my legs hit the rim and I pitched backwards, now sitting on the cot. Cleo only knelt down, her knees on the side of my legs in a straddle. Her head ducked down to my ear, her lips grazing its shell. "I sound the same, down to every variety in tone for every emotion and inflection I use." She leaned back, sitting back on my legs and trailed a finger right under my nose and above my lip, "I smell the same." I closed my eyes, unable to resist taking in a deep breath and letting her scent flood through me.
When I opened my eyes she was a only a millimeter away from me. Any slight movement would have our noses touching. "And I know," she said, her breath fanning my face, "that I feel the same." She ran her hands up my arms, her fingers arching over my shoulders and scraping down my back before diving under my shirt and making their way back to my front to run across my abs. She pulled her hands away and biting cold nipped at my skin from where the warmth of her touch had vanished. It was only a second before her hands came back into contact, finding their place on my cheeks. She brushed her thumbs along my cheekbones, sending a shiver up my spine. "I bet that I taste the same too." Before I could shove her away she captured my lips, biting down on them in a punishing action. She was merciless, not allowing me time to enjoy it or savor it, just doing her best to overwhelm me. My hand went to cup the back of her head and thread my fingers through her hair but my hand only passed through her.
She abruptly pulled away and my lips chased after hers only for her to flick my nose. "Really, Hakota, you know that's not how this works." With a wicked grin she let the pad of her thumb trace the shape of my lips. "I only get to touch you," she reminded me, "you can't touch me."
"Cleo," I groaned out, from the torture that was slowly killing me. Her being here but not being real was messing me up so bad.
She chuckled darkly and slid off my lap, "I'm sure it would be a different story were I still alive."
I reached out a hand as she started to fade away. "No," I pleaded with her, my throat constricting with a hoarse whine.
"Find my body Hakota and then we'll see if the rules change," her words were all that I was left with as the sight of her disappeared.
My head spun from everything that had just happened but her lingering words only renewed my determination to find her body and put an end to this once and for all.