Waiting in Darkness

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Eleven | Terrin

Being wrong was something no one wanted to own up to and I was no exception. I hated to admit it, but I had actually enjoyed the date Syn had planned for us.

I had expected him to fully use the rights he had bargained for and force me to cuddle for the entire date, however he hadn't touched me at all. Except for that kiss at the end.

Goddamn, that kiss had taken me by complete surprise. I had fully expected him to get into another battle of words with me after my rude reply but instead he had just yanked me into him and kissed me.

And I didn't even have any time to respond or think before he'd ended it and walked away without even saying goodbye.

The sneaky bastard had made sure I would think about that kiss long after it happened. Who savagely presses their lips to someone's like that and got in a good sweep of their tongue before pulling away? And it had only lasted for mere seconds! He didn't even give me a moment to come to terms with what he was doing and figure out how I wanted to respond before he walked away.

He couldn't do that! He had no right to confuse me. He had told me himself that one kiss wasn't going to satisfy him, but that quick yet ferocious lip lock had done it? There had to be more to it, I was missing something and I wanted to find out what. Syn was planning something, he had to be.

He'd been longing to be able to touch me freely and now that he could he was going to pass it up? One brief kiss and that was it?

No. Something was up.

"Why are you covered in dirt?" Heidi's soft voice full of confusion pulled me from my brooding.

I looked down to see the female all dolled up in a cute little white dress with lace sleeves, her hair pinned up in a messy bun of wild blond locks. Held in front of her was a wicker basket with a red and white checkered picnic blanket neatly rolled and tied to the basket.

Her wide doe eyes were framed by dark lashes that brushed her cheeks when she looked down shyly. "Was Syn's idea of the perfect date wrestling or something?" She quirked one perfectly sculpted brow.

"No, we landscaped around the castle actually," I admitted looking down at my hands to see that they were indeed covered in streaks of dirt. Soil was caked under my fingernails and smelled slightly of evergreen.

Putting down her picnic basket, Heidi lifted up on her tiptoes and plucked some leaves and pineneedles from my hair letting them shower to the ground around us. "The lycan took you gardening as a date?" She mused, brushing her hand through my hair to be sure she had removed all traces of nature.

"It's not gardening," I replied defensively, "we strategically planted trees and bushes. It's not like I was putting flowers in his hair." My tone was salty as I sulked, looking down at the female with narrowed eyes as she picked up her picnic basket before leaning into me, her back against my front.

She giggled, tilting her head back to look up at me. "Okay, okay," she rolled her eyes, "I wasn't trying to offend you. I just think it's cute a male like yourself would enjoy something most people would consider girly."

"I didn't enjoy it!" I lied, "it was Syn's dumb idea okay? I just went along because he'd already bought everything and set it all up."

Heidi looked up at me with a gigantic smile, a teasing look in her eye as she said, "Good, otherwise I might have to reverse our roles and make you cook for all of our dates. Who knows maybe you'll even find doing laundry relaxing?"

I gave her a playful growled before seizing her around the waist and swung her in a circle. She squealed, clutching onto the picnic basket and laughing as I brought her lips to mine, stealing a kiss. "What's that supposed to mean?" I demanded, "are you trying to say you think I'm girly or something?"

"Of course not!" She gasped, "You're my big strong alpha male. Besides," she smiled and landed a kiss on my nose, "there's only room for one princess in our relationship." Then with a fake uppity tone she declared, "And just in case you didn't know, that princesses is going to be me."

I chuckled and quickly pecked her on the lips before setting her on the ground. "Okay princess, it looks to me like you've prepared a feast," I said, eyeing the picnic basket in her grasp. "So tell me what you have planned for our date."

"Well," she replied, lifting the lid to take a peek, " I have plenty of meat so you don't have to worry your little head about starving." She closed the lid and then gave me a sly smile. "But more importantly, I also packed and assortment of fruits for desert."

The gleam in her eye told me that I myself would not be touching the food, only taking what she hand fed me. "Let's not waste time then, I am absolutely famished."

***

It wasn't until almost a week later that Syn called in another date. I hadn't seen him outside of pack meetings and occasionally when I passed him while I walked through the castle on pack business or to find Cleo. When I wasn't at the castle I was with Heidi. She always had something planned for us.

I was just leaving the castle after having returned Cahtta and Sasha to their parents, as today had been my turn to babysit, when I ran into Cleo. I could tell immediately that something was wrong. Her eyes were glazed like she hadn't slept in awhile and I knew she probably hadn't. She looked frazzled, anxious, and worried. I guessed that it probably had something to do with the current problem of our oversized kingdom with only the few of us trying to run in successfully. It was something that weighed on all of us.

I grabbed her as she stumbled, "Cleo, are you alright? Did Hakota–"

Gripping my forearms tightly, her claws puncturing into my skin unintentionally she looked up at me with wild eyes, "It's Sitka." She shook her head, "this stress is hitting him the hardest. Without a mate to help him he's feeling it all. As the beta he takes more responsibility than all the others." She swallowed, "And I...Hakota and I can't take anything off him because we have additional problems to worry about."

This was nothing new to me. I had known from the start that Cleo and Hakota would struggle. I doubted they would ever be able to move past their scars. "Things aren't going well between you and your mate, are they?"

Tears bubbled up in her eyes and her lips quivered as she tried to hold it in, but when I pulled her into an embrace, the dam was opened and all of Cleo's sorrows flooded out in a mess of tears, words, and sobs. "I'm trying, gods I'm trying. I want so badly to fix it! I know he's trying too. But there's just something missing. I can't trust him, Terrin, and he doesn't trust me." She clung onto me, burying her face in my chest. "Why can't I just love him? Why can't we just be happy? Haven't we gone through enough? Why does Lune keep punishing us?"

She asked question after question, demanding answers I didn't have. I only rubbed her back, doing my best to soothe her. "I don't know Cleo. I don't know why everyone has to be so miserable."

In reply Cleo only cried harder. I held her to me, offering her all of the warmth and comfort I had, waiting until she quieted to small sniffles and her tears dried. I knew this was a hard time for her. For five years the lycan pack had been a disaster, broken and damaged. We all played a part in it. Not one of us was blameless. Everyone had picked sides at one point, had turned against someone.

Perhaps now we were paying for it.

And I was avoiding punishment by choosing Heidi.

Cleo pulled back, wiping at her red eyes. "I'm sorry Terrin. I'm sorry for being so pushy and then ignoring you. I just...Syn is important to me and so are you. I don't mean to put one of you over the other."

I smiled softly at her and brushed away her last tear that had leaked free. "It's okay Cleo. You have a lot on your shoulder, you need to worry enough about your own mating to be busy worrying about everyone else's. Just focus on you for awhile. It's okay to put yourself first every once in awhile."

Turning her face away from me she stared at her feet with her head bowed and said, "Putting myself first is what got me in this mess. All of this hurt is just a byproduct of selfishness." The quiet whisper of her voice hoarse from crying and the dead look in her eyes frightened me.

"Or it's just the shitty hand we've been dealt in life," I whispered.

She looked up at me with hollow eyes, "If you just accept that your life will always be like this, you will never find a better one,"

"What do you expect me to do, Cleo? You should know, you should be the one who understands me. My life has pretty much sucked forever, why should I expect that to change?" Cleo bit her lip, and I knew my words were hitting home. "Hope is for fools," I continued mercilessly, needing her to face reality and give up the fairytale she had been chasing since I'd known her. "It is chosen ignorance. I'm sorry if opting for self preservation is selfish but I'm just trying to survive."

"So are the rest of us," Cleo murmured, "open your eyes Terrin. Do you think Hakota, or I, Sitka or Syn are living? Not a goddamn one of us is happy. We are surviving, trying to live with our mistakes and pasts just like you."

"I know. This is closest thing I've ever had to a family and we can't afford to turn against each other when we need each other. That's why I'm doing this. Syn and I need the closure. I'm trying to let him down gently."

"Now who's the ignorant fool? Don't kid yourself Terrin, this is all for you. At this point you care more about your own happiness than anyone else's and you don't care who you hurt to get there," she stabbed me in the chest with a finger, "even if the person you hurt worst in the end is yourself."

I knocked her hand away, "why should I? Everyone leaves in the end anyway, no matter how hard I try to keep them. A beaten dog can only take so much before it starts to bite."

Her hard gaze immediate softened and her expression morphed from one of disappointment to one of regret. "Terrin–" she reached out for me but I cut her off.

"Save it Cleo, I don't need another lecture. Besides, I'm late for my date with Syn."

The alpha female took my dismissal for what it was and let me go. The walk to Syn's townhouse didn't give me nearly enough time to clear my head. I trudged up the steps to the familiar doorway of the house smushed between many duplicates that lined the whole side of the street on both sides.

I knocked only once before stuffing my hands in my pockets. The door opened a moment later, just enough to show Syn who was blocking the entrance. There was no mistaking the hurt look on his face, even though he tried to mask it with cold indifference.

"Sorry I'm late. Cleo needed me," I offered him the truth, looking him in the eyes so he would know I wasn't lying.

I was subjected to the lycan's scrutinizing gaze before he wordlessly swung the door the rest of the way open and stepped aside permitting entrance. I stepped past him, quickly taking in his dwelling. It was exactly the same as I remembered. "So," I said turning to the lycan who was watching me carefully, "what do you have planned for us?"

"Dinner," The single word passed through his lips in his rumbling baritone voice. He moved around me to the kitchen and starting grabbing our food out of the fridge. Seeing what he planned to prepare I took out the respective appliances, setting out pans and grabbing a knife and cutting board along with a spatula.

Syn expertly cut the potatoes I had peeled into small wedges while I set to work frying the bacon and sausages. The sizzling of grease from the meat in the pan was accompanied by the chopping of the knife. Again our the entirety of our date was spent in silence. Syn didn't speak a word and neither did I. Strangely, it wasn't uncomfortable, it was actually more enjoyable because I could use the time to think.

I diced up the onion and garlic cloves for the hash browns and omelet, so lost in my earlier conversation that I wasn't watching my fingers, and nicked my finger with the knife. I hissed, more out of surprise than pain but it immediately caught Syn's attention. He stood up so abruptly from his crouched position to retrieve a mixing bowl that he whacked his head on the cabinet door he had left open above him.

I couldn't help but laugh, holding my bleeding finger. Syn was so surprised by my laugh that he froze for a second, his expression one of pure bewilderment, morphing into shock when I didn't hide my smile from him after my laughter died off. The lycan closed the cabinet door, giving it a glare before coming over to me. He reached out to take my hand but I moved it back from him and he halted. "It's fine. I just need to wash it."

"Please, let me help," Syn begged me.

I knew if I told him no he wouldn't push it which is why I replied, "If you want to help get me a bandaid."

A huge smile pulled at his lips, revealing his teeth. The absolute joy I saw took me aback. I had no idea such a little thing would make him so happy. I watched as he retrieved the bandaid, looking all too pleased with himself as he handed it to me. I nearly laughed again at the sight of his chest slightly puffed up and the way his lips would return to a flat line only to twitch back up into a goofy little grin.

And it was because of the immense happiness I saw there, a look I had never before seen on his face that I shook my head at his outstretched offering. The bright light in his grey-green eyes dimmed and his smile fell. Taking in a deep breath I swallowed my pride and held out my finger to him, meeting his eyes just for a second before turning my head away. There was the sound of the wrapper being opened and then I felt Syn's large hand take hold of mine while he applied the bandaid. The moment it was set he let my hand go and stepped away, his smile back in full force.

It didn't take a genius to figure out why he was thrilled. He felt needed and accepted, the first time I had let him feel that way. The fact that this tiny act made him so happy made me regret that I had stamped out the ability for him to feel that way for nearly five years.

The lycan washed the knife and handed it back to me. We returned back to the way things were. I finished my task of cutting everything, and sautéing the vegetables for the omelet in the saucepan before moving out of the way for Syn who had the eggs whipped and ready to go. I set the table, placing the bacon, sausages, hash browns and water out on the table. I took my seat and waited for Syn.

Our breakfast dinner was a success. I didn't fail to notice the way Syn's eyes continually darted to look at my finger before a tiny smile pulled up at the corner of his mouth. We ate in silence which I was fine with because I didn't really know what to say.

I helped Syn clean up, a fast and easy chore. Not really sure what else there was to do, or if Syn had other plans for the evening, I went for the door waiting for him to stop me. When he didn't, I grasped the handle and yanked the door back exposing the city street beyond. I had one foot out the door, ready to just leave but then I hesitated and turned to look back at the lycan. Syn couldn't mask his sad expression at my actions of making a beeline for the door.

"Well, goodnight," I said awkwardly and closed the door. I made it down the steps when the door was wrenched back open and Syn barreled into me. He grabbed my upper arms and smashed a kiss mirroring the one from our first date onto my mouth. I blinked when he pulled away, speechless for the second time in a row.

"Goodnight Terrin," he whispered before fleeing back into his house to leave me standing shellshocked once again.

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