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)
Getting in trouble was something I did very well. Usually I would just get a scolding and a talking-to from my father.
Then I would get punished, something like having to clean up the sticks and rake the leaves in the yard or going to bed without supper.
This time would be different.
I could sense my father’s rage radiating from his powerful body as his alpha rose to the surface. His irises began to go black and then 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, 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 Grey and me wince.
“You are nearly thirteen. This must stop. Learn to obey quickly, Cleo, or you will not like the way I handle you.”
He flicked his head toward Grey. “Take her to the house. I’ll figure out how to deal with her later.”
Grey touched the small of my back and pushed me forward. Though it was gentle, I stumbled a little.
I hung my head as I trudged back to the house, feeling the eyes of the pack members on me before they dipped their heads back toward 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 corrected him.
“I should have started learning last year. I should have been an apprentice. Instead, I’m forced to sit around the house and go to school and learn 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 bent to my level. “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, but instead, all I do is endanger it.”
Grey exhaled and propped his finger under my chin. “There is still a chance, Cleo. Maybe your wolf just hasn’t awakened within you yet. 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 became stronger and faster.
We began training the year after the signs started showing. We learned how to fight and use our human bodies. By sixteen we were 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 warriors ourselves.
Our master was the same for human- and wolf-body training.
They taught us how to transition and how to restrain our urges and emotions. They taught us how to fight in both skins and how to use our skills as Hunters to our advantage.
Skills I would never obtain or hone.
I was as worthless as 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 I wouldn’t slip off.
He carried me back to my house and barged straight to my room to toss me on the bed. I giggled when I hit the soft mattress with an “oomph.”
Grey smiled softly at me. His pointed canine teeth showed slightly under his lip. “Keep smiling, Cleo. Don’t ever let anyone see you cry.” He ran his hand over my head.
I grabbed his hand before it could slip away and looked up into his eyes. “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 and tilted to the side as he listened intently. “I have to go, Cleo. Stay here and wait for your father, and do not get into any more trouble.”
Then he was gone, and I heard the front door opening and closing. Alone in my room, I turned from the open door to my vanity mirror across from my bed.
I sat cross-legged and stared myself down.
I tried to growl, to see if I had a wolf that would respond, but the pitiful noises that escaped my mouth were nothing more than a human would make if they tried to mimic a wolf.
I tried again, and still nothing.
Though I hadn’t expected much, my heart still fell and a 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 my wolf qualities would show themselves.
I hadn’t heard the rogue that was watching me close by, let alone smelled it, but Grey had.
He’d been running the borders, trying to detect 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. He’d tackled it away from me and delivered a strong bite to its jugular, crushing its neck in his jaws and easily killing it.
He’d taken me straight to my father.
My father, the greatest Hunter in history.
It was because of who my father was that I felt worthless. My father was a legend, while 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 it in 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.
He stood in my doorway, eyes narrowed at my daring gesture. I immediately dropped my gaze 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 and tears threatened to spill over at his harsh reprimand. I hated how he could read my thoughts. 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 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 to form a curtain across my face. “I’ll always be helpless, no matter what.”
My father was silent, and I knew I was right.
I would never show signs of a wolf, because I didn’t have one and I never would.