In the Night

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SIXTEEN

An emergency meeting was called.

Coda had arrived and he did not bring good news.

The only one to know exactly what was happening before Coda even had a chance to tell us was Malik. His smug look told me that much as he had casually commented on the fact I should prepare myself for the Hunter's arrival.

Now the entire pack was seated, waiting to hear what news Coda had to bring.

Surprisingly the alpha had not come alone. It was no secret the other Hunters still hated the lycans and refused to step foot in a room with them since they'd have to be civil.

We didn't particularly care for the Hunters ourselves but having Cleo as our alpha helped us to not beat the crap out of Coda who had actively participated in the lycan wars with Eric Farland, Cleo's father.

But the male accompanying Coda was not a Hunter, but rather a Forester and by the ora we could feel from him, he was an alpha as well.

Malik confirmed as much, nonchalantly questioning the male's purpose. "So, no one is going to question why that Forest Kingdom alpha is taking part in this meeting?" He looked around the table. "No?" He sat back in his chair with a grin and gestured with a flourish of his hand. "Then by all means please continue discussing our secrets and battle plans in front of him."

The Forester stiffened, uncomfortable having been called out in front of the room full of lycans even though he'd obviously been trying to pass by unnoticed.

He shrank back further into the shadows of the corner he'd been hiding in as all eyes turned to him.

"Err," Cleo tried to deescalate the situation because Coda wasn't offering any explanation of his own free will. "Um...Coda? I trust you're not trying to screw me over here?"

The Hunter waved his hand dismissively, "ignore him, he's not an alpha of the Forest Kingdom anymore."

"Uhh...okay?" Cleo said after a moment even though clearly his explanation was not cutting it for anyone else present.

"Then what is he?" Innoko snapped, her short temper making its appearance.

Coda glared at the white-haired female and she scowled right back. "He's my trophy," Coda clarified.

Innoko still wasn't satisfied. "Is it necessary for him to be here?"

"Only because it seems to be pissing you off," the male shot back.

"Coda," Cleo sighed, giving him a pleading look, "can he just wait outside for the time being?"

The werewolf was already slinking around the edge of the room towards the door, attempting to sneak out while Coda's attention was elsewhere.

"Oh look," Malik chirped out, never one to let a good drama go to waste. "He's mated with two sets of scars. Doesn't that only happen because of a mate fight? Though usually it's the female who comes out with a new set of scars."

Everyone's gazes switched back over to Coda as the werewolf froze, his face going pale. He covered the much bigger and obviously male set of scars on his neck.

"It's a long story alright?" Coda growled before his voice dropped several degrees colder. "Get out," he snapped at the Forester.

The werewolf bristled, his alpha side not liking being commanded in such a way. His lips curled up in a sneer and he straightened, glaring at the Hunter.

"You want to try this again?" Coda drawled, a challenging look in his eyes.

"Don't look down on me," the werewolf snapped. "You're enough of a bastard without having to humiliate me in front of them."

Coda didn't even blink and said in absolute boredom, "Then maybe you should stop being a spineless coward and do something about it. You let that disgusting female mate of yours walk all over you but now you are actually embarrassed enough to stand up for yourself?" The Hunter shook his head and pointed at the door. "Get out and think about how you're going to apologize to me later for saving your pathetic self from more humiliation."

"The only thing more humiliating than having my name tied to hers is having my name tied to yours." the werewolf alpha sneered.

Coda looked completely relaxed and at ease, yet his alpha pheromones pouring off of him were strong enough to rival Cleo and Hakota's. "One more word out of you and I'll tell everyone here about your sorry life story with a mating more disastrous than any of the ones present in this pack and let me tell you, there are some pretty depressing stories in this room when it comes to mates."

At that the Forester lowered his head and scurried out of the room, slamming the door shut behind him.

Everyone sat in uncomfortable silence, wondering what the hell had just happened and with the itching curiosity to know the story behind Coda and the werewolf.

"That mating mark wasn't yours right?" Cleo asked, examining Coda's neck and not seeing any scars claiming him as a mated male.

"No, they are mine, but it's not a mating mark."

Awkward silence ensued because everyone knew that was a lie because what the hell else could it have been? Yet no one was willing to call him out on it if Cleo wasn't.

Well, everyone except Malik that is.

The fearless kid pursed his lips and leaned back in his chair, tipping it onto two legs. "Well you participated in a mate fight and marked him as a result so..." the hybrid dragged the word out. "How exactly is that not a mating mark?"

"How do you even know I had a mate fight?" Coda demanded, eyeing the teenager suspiciously.

Malik only grinned but didn't spill his secrets. "So the Forester, is he your mate or not?" He pried into Coda's privacy, looking for a deeper explanation into the story that was obviously there.

After a long moment the Hunter finally conceded the information. "Technically, yes," he said, "but realistically, no. Like I said, it's a long story."

"I've got time," Malik replied, the chair thunking on the ground as it landed on all four legs. Malik leaned forward, clasping his hands together on the table, his expression one of eager anticipation.

The Hunter huffed, "Look kid, I'll tell you about it some other time. I'm not here for story time."

"Right," Hakota jumped in, happy for the opportunity to move things forward and off of Coda's personal life. "Obviously you just came from the Forest Kingdom and I'm going to take a wild guess and say what you were doing there means nothing good for us."

"The Forest King asked for my Hunters," Coda admitted what everyone had suspected, coming to stand behind Cleo's chair.

"And what did you tell him?" Hakota prompted.

Coda slung his arm over the chair, grabbing Cleo's shoulders and resting his chin on her head. "I told him my pack isn't a band of mercenaries to be hired out and if he doesn't think he can win a war on his own then he really shouldn't start one."

The alpha female reached up and placed a hand over his that was squeezing her shoulder. She tilted to the side, looking up at her old mentor. "I take it he didn't care for your answer."

"Nah," Coda said and flicked Cleo's nose, "the mongrel told me I should stop being the alpha female's bitch." He stood up from his slouched position over Cleo's chair and crossed his arms. "So I told him to stop being an envious prick that my kid make rank in the lycan pack and his didn't." With a prideful, and somewhat gloating smile, he lifted his chin, peering down at all of the lycans assembled.

Perhaps he expected us to applaude him for his contribution to raising our alpha female as if somehow her rank in our pack was attributed to him.

Of course, no one thanked him or praised him.

Coda didn't seem to mind and picked up Elias from his chair where he had been entertaining himself by scribbling with his markers on paper. The little kid hated being the only left out of meetings because of his age so Cleo let him attend even if he didn't pay any attention.

"Hunters serve under no one but our own," he commented, putting Elias on his shoulders and walking around the room with the boy he considered family. Despite the seriousness of the situation and topic of conversation, he didn't seem to care or be particularly concerned.

I guess he really didn't have a reason to care since the only reason he was even here telling us about it in the first place was because he considered Cleo his own daughter and he did sort of care about her happiness.

"I told him if we wanted a war with the lycans we'd already be fighting it." He turned back to face Cleo, removing Elias's hands from where they were covering his eyes as the young boy tried to hold on.

It might have been comical seeing the usually stone-faced and intimidating Hunter holding a small child on his shoulders, if we weren't breaching the subject of war. "Kid, you're choking me now," he mumbled to Elias who had moved his hands from Coda's eyes to neck.

Hakota tapped the table with a finger, "So he does want war."

"Of course," Coda swung Elias off his shoulders, holding him upside down by his ankle as the kid laughed hysterically. Elias swung his body forward, trying to grab ahold of Coda but the Hunter only pretend to drop him several times initiating shrieks of protest from the child.

Cleo rubbed at her temples, "Coda, focus please. This is important."

The Hunter gently lowered Elias to the floor but the kid only scrambled to his feet and jumped onto Coda's back, not willing to give up the Hunter's attention for the rest of us. Coda hefted Elias up, allowing him to cling to his back like a koala.

"Elias, honey," Cleo beckoned her son over to her but Elias only hide his face in Coda's back and pretended like he hadn't heard her.

"Oh let him be," Coda scolded the alpha female.

Cleo crossed her arms and sulked, looking a little jealous as she muttered, "You never treated me like that."

"That's because you're ugly and not nearly as cute as Elias," the Hunter sang. He gave Hakota the evil eye, "although I'm not sure how that happened because his father is lacking in the looks department as well." He shamelessly insulted the alpha pair who were anything but ugly. "He must have gotten his looks from me," Coda mused.

Hakota didn't even spare the effort to look insulted and only dully asked, "So is he going to start a war without your help or not?"

Coda sighed, "Being King grew his eyes bigger than his stomach. He's biting off more than he can chew but his ego won't let him be content with what's already on his plate." He gained a more serious demeanor, after letting the child slide off his back when he crouched on the ground. "All I have to say is watch your backs. Your complacency has grown his confidence."

No one was surprised by his answer. We all knew it was only a matter of time before the Forest King made his first move.

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