Cleo is constantly at war with herself. She’s a hunter, fated to be a lycan’s mate, yet she fights against the strengthening mate bond and feels things she has never felt before. On the outside, dark forces gather around her, leaving Cleo trapped in a ceaseless war between hunters and werewolves and humans. Will she walk out alive, and with her heart unscarred?
Age Rating: 18+ (Content Warning: Assault, Human Trafficking, Sexual Assault/Abuse)
In The Shadows by Andrea Glandt is now available to read on the Galatea app! Read the first two chapters below, or download Galatea for the full experience.
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Getting in trouble was something I did very well. Usually I would just get a scolding from June, my nanny of sorts, or at worst a talking to by my father.
Then I would get punished, like going to bed without supper or having to clean up the sticks in the yard and rake the leaves.
This time though was going to be different.
I could sense my father’s rage radiating from his powerful body, his alpha side rising to the surface, his irises going black, the color starting to bleed into the whites of his eyes.
I hung my head and waited for my father to reprimand me.
The warrior standing next to me shuffled his feet, his eyes focused on the ground and his head ducked in submission.
My father’s overbearing nature was forcing all of those in our pack to bow in submission, even though that wasn’t his intent. “What am I supposed to do with you, Cleo?” He demanded, a deep growl in his throat.
I kept silent because I knew he didn’t want an answer from me.
“I’ve told you a dozen times to stay away from the boundary lines, and this is exactly the reason why.”
His voice was filled with fury and I knew I would not be escaping this one lightly. “That rogue would have killed you if Grey hadn’t been nearby. You would be dead.” He spat out the last word, making me and Grey wince.
“You are nearly thirteen, this must stop. Learn to obey quickly, Cleo, or you will not like the way I make you.” He flicked his head at Grey, “take her to the the house. I’ll figure out how to deal with her later.”
Grey touched the small of my back and pushed me forward, even though it was gently, I still stumbled a little.
I hung my head as I trudged back to the house, feeling the eyes of the pack members follow me before quickly dipping down to the ground at Grey’s warning growl.
I scuffed my feet along the ground, kicking a rock that was in my way. “I hate this.” I grumbled to myself but Grey’s excellent hearing caught my words anyway.
“You may be his daughter, Cleo, but you are still a part of the pack. He’s your alpha and you should listen to him.”
“It’s because I’m his daughter that I’m not a part of the pack.” I contradicted him.
“I should have started learning last year. I should have been part of the apprenticeship. Instead I’m forced to sit around the house, going to school and learning like a human. To be a human.”
Tears pushed at the back of my eyes. “I can’t help it. I want to explore, I want to be like the rest of you.”
I stopped walking and stared at Grey’s feet. “I don’t want to be like those humans. I don’t even need to be a hunter, I just want to be a wolf!” The waterworks started and I began to bawl at the unfairness of it.
Grey knelt down, now eye level with me. “Cleo, there is nothing wrong with being normal. You are still a part of this pack, you can still—”
“Watch pups? Help the other wolves cook and clean?” I cried harder, “I want to be a warrior, Grey! I want to protect my pack and instead all I do is endanger it!”
Grey exhaled a breath and propped his finger under my chin. “There is still a chance, Cleo. Maybe your wolf hasn’t awakened within you yet. Just give it time.”
I flung myself into his arms and sobbed all over him. “I’m three years late! Not even the smallest sign!”
It was normal for wolves to start showing signs at ten years of age. Our hearing sharpened as did our vision, our canine teeth formed and we were stronger and faster.
We began training the year after the signs started showing and learned how to fight and use our human bodies. At sixteen we were finally able to morph into our wolf forms.
We trained under a master, usually one or two apprentices per warrior until they deemed us worthy to become a warrior ourselves.
Our master was the same for both the human and wolf body training.
They taught us how to transition and to restrain our urges and emotions. They taught us how to fight in both skins and to use our skills as hunters to our advantage. Skills I would never obtain or hone.
I was as worthless and every other human.
“It will all be okay, Cleo, I promise.” Grey hugged me tightly before twisting me around and slinging me onto his shoulders, clasping the front of my legs so that I wouldn’t slip off.
He carried me back to my house on his shoulders, barging straight past June who was gaping at me like a fish out of water.
He brought me straight to my room before tossing me on the bed, causing me to giggle as I hit the soft mattress with an oomph.
I smiled up at Grey, my straight rounded human teeth all showing, the tears now gone.
Grey smiled softly back at me, his pointed canine teeth just showing slightly under his lip. “Keep smiling Cleo, don’t ever let anyone see you cry.” He told me, running his hand over my head.
I grabbed his hand before it could slip away. Looking up into his eyes I squeezed his hand. “Thank you Grey, for saving me.”
“I will always trade my life for yours, Cleo. Human or not, you will always be a wolf to me.”
His head suddenly whipped around, his head tilting to the side as he listened intently. “I have to go Cleo. Stay here and wait for your father, don’t get in any more trouble.”
Then he was gone, the sound of the front door opening and closing as he left me alone in my room. I turned from the open door to the mirror of my vanity that was in front if my bed.
I turned so that I was facing the mirror, sitting cross legged and stared myself down.
I tried to growl, to see if I had a wolf that would respond, but there was nothing except the pitiful noises escaping my mouth that only a human could make attempting to mimic a wolf. I tried again and still nothing.
Even though I hadn’t expected much, my heart still fell and a heavy weight settled on my shoulders.
It was this foolishness, this desire to be something I wasn’t, that got me into trouble.
I’d gone to the border to scout, to see if I could scent a different wolf, but I couldn’t even scent my own pack members. Still I had gone, hoping today would be the day some of my wolf qualities would show themselves.
I hadn’t even heard the rogue that was watching me close by, let alone smell it, but Grey had. He’d been running the borders, detecting any presence that wasn’t supposed to be there and he had gotten two. Mine and the rogue’s.
Before the Rogue could spring at me, Grey was there, tackling it away from me and delivering a strong bite to its jugular, crushing its neck in his jaws and easily killing it.
Rogues were a curious thing.
Often times they were the result of wolves that had lost their mates, or pups that had been considered too weak for their packs and were tossed out to fend for themselves.
Some rogues, if young enough could be adopted into packs but many times they were too far gone too feral from spending years alone, depending only on themselves and fighting to the death.
This kindest thing to do for the rogue’s them was to kill them, and also death was best thing for the rogues that lost their mates. Their misery was what drove them mad. The most dangerous rogues were those who were born into it.
They grouped into small four or five member packs and could do a lot of damage. These packs always consisted of only one male. It wasn’t uncommon for the male to be challenged and killed, the new male taking over.
They craved blood, infiltrating packs just to kill the members and then leave with nothing.
Some packs would lay down their pride and ask my father for help.
We were considered abominations and disgraces, monsters even, but we were powerful. My father’s pack consisted of seventeen male members excluding himself and fourteen female members, not including me.
We had two pups and six apprentices in our packs as well. Although we were considerably small compared to some packs we had a special gene in our pack that existed nowhere else. We were hunters.
We currently had thirteen hunters in our pack, my father included. We were at an all time high. The hunter gene was rare and it only existed in males.
Most hunters were already born in our pack as the gene was hereditary although sometimes the females carried the gene but showed no sign of it themselves they passed it onto their offspring. However the hunter gene was unique.
It made the wolf born with it, seek out our pack, to belong with his kind and that was in my father’s pack. Other hunters could sense the brith of a hunter and would seek out the pup and bring it back to our pack.
We killed if we had too, to claim what was ours. Although many packs wanted nothing to do with a pup that was born with the hunter gene, some coveted our strengths.
The claws and teeth of a hunter were poisonous to other wolves and usually proved fatal if any deep injuries were delivered. They also had an immunity to silver.
Their wolves were smaller, and lean rather than muscular which was considered a fault, an undesirable trait to some wolves and it was true in a way.
If forced to use brute strength against a usual werewolf they would lose, every time, but their size made them quicker and more nimble, which made them hard to catch and even harder to deliver damage too.
My father was the greatest hunter in history, his wolf wasn’t small like the others, he was huge, bigger than normal werewolves, he easily compared to many betas and even some alphas.
It was because my father was a legend that I felt even more worthless. My father was the greatest hunter ever to be seen and I was a worthless human, not even a small weak omega wolf.
I felt as though I was an embarrassment to my father, although he never said such words.
“You can stop those thoughts right now, Cleo.” His deep voice penetrated my thoughts.
I swallowed and slowly turned to meet my father’s gaze.
His eyes narrowed at my daring gesture and my eyes immediately dropped to the bed. I should have known better than to look him in the eyes after how angry I had made him.
“Yes, you should have, Cleo. You’ll have to learn your place eventually.”
My lips quivered as tears threaten to spill over at his harsh reprimand. I hated how he read my thoughts, even more than that, I hated how I couldn’t keep them protected away from him.
I hated that I was as easy to read as a human.
My father sighed as he read those thoughts too. His alpha slowly retreated back and he turned into my father.
“What were you thinking Cleo? Going off alone, all the way to the border? Even if you had detected an intruder, then what? You have no training Cleo, you don’t even have the speed to run.” His voice was tired, sad even.
“I’ll never have the speed will I?” I asked quietly.
“I’ll never get the training either.” My hair fell from behind my ear and fell in a curtain around my face. “I’ll always be helpless, no matter what.” My father was silent and I knew I was right.
I knew in that moment that I would never show signs of a wolf because I didn’t have one and I never would. “I’m sorry daddy. I’m sorry that I can’t be good enough.”
“No, Cleo,” he murmured and sat down on my bed next to me, the mattress dipping under his weight. He wrapped his arms around me and pulled me into his lap, tucking me under him, his chin resting on my head.
“Sweetheart, you are the most valuable out of any of the pack members. I will always love you Cleo, no matter what. You are my world and I will never let you go. I’ll always protect you, even if you don’t want to be protected.”
“Even if I find my mate?” I whispered. The females always went to their mate’s pack, it was another reason why most of the hunters were already born into our pack.
Even then, Cleo. He’ll have to become part of our pack, I won’t let him take you.”
I wasn’t worried about my mate trying to take me away to his pack, he would reject me, because no one would ever want a useless mate.
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Dust flew up everywhere around the apprentice who had been flipped over the shoulder of his master and into the dirt with a heavy thud. He groaned and flung his arm over his eyes. “Is it lunch time yet?”
His master stood over him, amusement in his eyes as he held out a hand for the young wolf. “We’ve only started an hour ago. You’ve got awhile kid.”
I enjoyed watching the other apprentices train.
I learned a lot just by listening to them teach and watching. I watched the teachers mostly but I would also occasionally sneak a glance at the apprentices to see what they were doing wrong.
The apprentices hated it when I watched them. I could sense their aggression when they passed me. They thought I was judging them when I had no skills at all.
They thought I had no place in being around them when I wasn’t even a wolf.
I curled my legs into my chest, wrapping my arms around my legs and resting my chin on my knees. I didn’t let their loathing looks dissuade me though.
This was as close as I would ever get to warrior training. I sighed and continued to watch, watching Judah, the apprentice try over and over again until he finally did it right.
“Why sit here and lament, hmm?” A croaky voice quipped from behind me.
I lifted my head to see Cami, an elderly Native American woman who stood at four foot eight, hunched over her large walking stick raising a bushy brow at me.
The feathers and beads in her gray hair shifted over her back as she hobbled toward me.
“I’m not allowed to train with them. I can’t be an apprentice so I haven’t got a master.”
Cami puckered out her lips. “Nonsense. You legs.”
She poked my curled up legs with the end of her stick. “You brains.” She tapped the side of her head with the stick. “Why no train?” She shook her head. “You like them. Nothing different. Why not learn like them?”
“Because I have no wolf. I can’t—”
“No matter! No matter!” She scolded me, brandishing her cane and shaking it wildly. “They have no wolf either! They still train!” She poked me hard in the chest with her walking stick. “You same.”
She poked me again. “If you want to train, you fight to be allowed.” Her broken English was the clearest words I had ever heard.
She was right! I was just like them. They didn’t have their wolves now either.
Of course they had their werewolf traits, of speed strength and senses, but I could still learn too!
“Young people, stupid.” I heard Cami mutter as she shuffled away, her small frame making it’s way back to the Elder’s tent.
A bright smile lit up my face as I stood. The old lady was right! Why hadn’t I seen this before? Why hadn’t I fought for this!
I marched my way down to the the fishing docks where my father and other members of the pack were rebuilding the storage sheds for the coming winter.
My father was prying decaying boards from the sides of the sheds and tossing them on the pile, his beta assisting him.
I walked over to the pile of soon to be fire wood and stood directly in front of the beta as he dropped his board down in front of me.
I raised my head and look him straight in the eyes, squaring my shoulders and trying to exude confidence. “I need to speak with the alpha.” I said loud enough for my father to hear me.
The beta raised a brow in question at my formal address of my father. I didn’t want to speak with my father though, I’d spoken to him time and time again to let me train but he always said no.
This was the only way I could get what I want. By asking him as my alpha, by holding him to his title as leader of the pack I knew I could twist his arm into letting me have this.
As alpha he had to look out for the pack, as our leader he needed to do everything to keep it safe, and training me gave him one more warrior, no matter how pathetic I might be.
I had the same reason for addressing my father so formally as I did for approaching his beta. Coda, was my father’s second in command, if my father wasn’t around to give orders, Coda had permission to call the shots.
If I wanted to speak with the alpha, I needed to get through him first.
Coda twisted around and glanced at my father questioningly. A small nod of my father’s head gave him the permission to let me through.
The beta stepped aside and allowed me a path to my father. I strode over to him with a purpose, hoping I managed to get my walk at least half as intimidating as my father’s.
“Alpha, I request that you permit me to train with the other apprentices. I know that it is against standard tradition but I wish only to train myself in this form.
“I ask that you allow me this as too make me stronger so that I am not such a liability.”
“No, Cleo. You don’t need to know how to fight.”
I resisted the urge to grind my teeth together.
I had expected him to deny my request, but now I wouldn’t stop until I got him to say yes. “With all due respect alpha, but a warrior watching over me, is one less warrior fighting on the front lines.
“I don’t ask that you allow me to become a warrior, I simply want to learn how to defend myself and others if need be. Please give me a chance.”
He shook his head, “No, Cleo, your mother would hate me if I did this.”
“I’m not asking you as my father, I am asking the alpha as a member of the pack. Let me do this. Let me learn.” I had hope that training might awaken my wolf. Sometimes it took a large sense of endangerment for a wolf to awaken.
“I want to be worthy of this pack.”
I saw the inner conflict within my father. His protective side was fighting with his alpha nature to gain a possible warrior.
I could see in his eyes that he was fighting a losing battle when he clenched his hands into fists, the veins on his neck popping out as his wolf tried to take over him.
“Only the first half Cleo. You can learn how to defend yourself, this much I will permit.”
He exhaled a breath through his nose and unclenched his fists. “I am going to regret this.” He muttered to himself before turning back to his work.
A huge smile spread across my face. Tonight would be the night I had dreamed of for years! I would finally undergo the apprenticeship ceremony and start the process of becoming a warrior for my pack.
A low growl rumbled from my father’s throat. The board he was prying from the house snapped in half. He threw the broken and splintered half, down on the ground and turned to me with blazing eyes.
“Oh no, Cleo. You won’t be getting any ceremony because you are not becoming a warrior. Think of it like taking a defense class. Nothing more and nothing less.”
My heart sank in my chest at the reminder.
I suppose it was better than nothing but it was still a far cry from what I had wanted. “I understand, alpha.”
Would I even be getting a master at all, or were the warriors to trade off everyday and I was to become a job that the alpha assigned, like border patrol?
“You may be right, Cleo.” He answered my thought.
“It’s not fair for me to ask a warrior to become your master when you won’t become a warrior in return.”
“No!” He snarled at me. “Grey would baby you. If you are to do this you will be doing it my way.
“You need someone who will push you until you break. Who will train you harder than any of the other apprentices. You will not be given special treatment because you lack the werewolf genes, am I understood?”
I nodded eagerly, happy at any chance to learn how to fight. “I thank you alpha.”
“Oh no, you don’t want to be thanking me, Cleo, because your master will be Coda.”
My heart stumbled over a beat in my chest before it continued at a much more rapid pace than before. Coda was my father’s beta, an alpha of his own right. If my father hadn’t been the alpha Coda would have taken over.
The beta was cruel and cold, he had dropped three apprentices in his time, never completing their training because he considered them too weak to become warriors.
His methods were relentless, he did not go easy on the young wolves, he treated them like ideal threats and it wasn’t uncommon for his apprentices to have a broken bone after practice. But I wouldn’t heal like them.
I had no wolf genes, I would heal as slowly and delicately as any human and Coda would not care.
My father could sense my hesitation. “You don’t have to train at all, of course.” He reminded me.
So this was his plan, I bristled with rage. He was trying to scare me out of it. And if that didn’t work he believed Coda would. But he wouldn’t, neither of them would deter me from this.
Even if Coda proclaimed me unworthy I would keep coming back, demanding our lessons continue. This was my one and only chance.
“I accept.” I replied, holding my ground.
“Alpha,” I said nodding to my father, “Master,” I acknowledged Coda, “I look forward to starting tomorrow.” Before I could even turn around Coda stopped me.
“Tomorrow? Oh no little pup, you’ll be starting right now.”
My father shot him a look, his eyes narrowed at Coda’s eagerness to begin. I suppose my father was a bit wary of Coda leaping at the chance to be in charge of me. “You can start by hauling these to the timber pit.”
He nodded to the pile of wood in front of me. “And when you finish with that, you can take the rest of the piles.”
My eyes slowly wandered around the fishing docks to see five identical piles to this one.
“Hurry up now, you’ll want to get this done before sundown or doing it in the dark will be much more difficult.”
Confusion spread across my face, my brow furrowing. Before dark? It wasn’t even high noon yet!
The wood would all be carried to the timber pit hours before dusk.
“I am glad that you have such high faith in yourself, as you will be doing this all by yourself without any tools or equipment but your hands and feet to help you.”
I paled. Do this all by myself? I was twelve, almost thirteen with no wolf attributes! The full grown warriors could do this no problem, they wouldn’t even brake a sweat.
But carrying one of these boards all the way to the fire pit by myself would take me at least ten minutes. There was no way I could finish this task before dark by myself!
“Daylight is burning.”
Coda reminded me, showing me a feral smile, his sharp canine teeth all showing.
Deep in my bones I knew I would hate Coda.
He would make me regret this every minute of every day, but I would prove to him one way or another that I was not to be taken for granted.
I would train harder than any other wolves and I would become better than each of them one day and prove my worth to this pack and to my father, that I was a force to be reckoned with.
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