I left Samuel sleeping and made tuna fish sandwiches for dinner, something I could put in the fridge for him in case he awoke hungry, but he stayed in his room until past my bedtime.

I set my alarm clock for a couple of hours later than my usual wake-up. Tomorrow was Saturday when I was officially closed. I had work to do, but nothing urgent, and Gabriel wasn't scheduled to come in until ten.

When I knelt for prayer before bedtime, I asked God to help Warren and Stefan catch the demon, as had become my usual plea. This time I added a prayer for Samuel as well. After a moment's thought I prayed for Adam, too. I didn't really think it was his fault that he turned me into a submissive ninny.

Even though I was all set to wake up late (for me), I got up just before dawn because someone was tapping on my window. I pulled my pillow over my head.

"Mercy." My window's assailant kept his voice down, but I knew it anyway. Stefan.

I rubbed my eyes. "Are you asking for quarter? I'm not in a particularly merciful mood." I can make fun of my name, but no one else can. Unless I'm in a really good mood. Or if I start it first.

I heard him laugh. "For quarters, perhaps. But I have no need to yield, if you are not assaulting me."

One of the nice things about Stefan was that he usually got my jokes, no matter how lame. Even better, he'd play along.

"You need money?" I asked in mock surprise. "I can write you a check, but I only have a couple of dollars in cash."

"I need a place to sleep the day, love. Would you shelter me?"

"All right," I threw back my covers and started for the front door. There went my plans to sleep in.


The sky was striped with the beginnings of sunrise when I opened the door.

"Left it a little late, Stefan." I said adding his name so that Samuel-who would have heard me open the door-wasn't alarmed.

Stefan didn't appear to hurry, but neither did he waste much time standing on my doorstep.

I hadn't seen him since the night of his trial. He looked tired. His shoulders were slumped and he didn't move with his usual effervescent energy. "I sent Daniel home, but I had a tip I had to check out. I thought I'd have time, but my powers lessen as dawn approaches and I found myself on your doorstep"-he grinned-"begging for mercy."

I escorted him to my bedroom door. "I thought Warren and Ben were working with you. Why didn't you have them check it out?"

"I sent them home earlier. They have jobs to do today, and even werewolves need sleep."

"They're working on a Saturday?"

" Warren has a job for his lawyer friend, and Ben had things to do that he couldn't get done when everyone else was working."

Ben was a computer geek working at the Pacific Northwest Nation Laboratory which was affiliated in some arcane manner with the Hanford Nuclear Site. Darryl, Adam's second, had gotten him the job-and from all accounts Ben was a pretty decent nerd. I think it surprised Darryl, who wasn't accustomed to being surprised.

I pulled open the closet door-Stefan's pillow and blanket were still there from the last time he'd spent the day. "Are you sure the sorcerer is still here? He could have moved on."

Stefan looked grim. "Watch the news this morning," was all he said before stepping into my closet and closing the door.

The car wreck that had so upset Samuel made the early news. So did the violent deaths of three young men who had gotten in an argument. We were two weeks into a heat wave that showed no signs of letting up anytime soon. There was another Arts festival in Howard Amon Park this weekend.

I assumed Littleton wouldn't have anything to do with the Arts festival or the weather (at least I hoped that a sorcerer wasn't powerful enough to affect the weather), so I paid close attention to the report on the dead men.

"Drugs are a growing problem," the newscaster said, as EMTs carried black sheathed bodies out on stretchers behind him. "Especially meth. In the last six months the police have shut down three meth labs in the Tri-City area. According to witnesses, last night's violence apparently broke out in a meth lab when one man made a comment about another's girlfriend. All of the men were high, and the argument quickly escalated into violence that left three men dead. Two other men are in police custody in connection to the deaths."

On the brighter side, all of Samuel's patients were apparently still alive, though the baby was in critical condition.

I turned off the TV, poured a bowl of cereal, then sat down at my computer desk in the spare bedroom while I ate breakfast and searched the Internet.

The online story had even fewer details than the morning news. On a whim I looked up Littleton 's name and found his website offering online tarot readings for a mere $19.95, all major credit cards accepted. No checks. Not a trusting soul, our sorcerer.

On impulse, since Elizaveta wouldn't tell me anything, I Googled for demons and sorcerers and I found myself buried under a morass of contradictory garbage.

"Any idiot can put up a website," I growled, shutting down the computer. Medea meowed in sympathy as she licked the last of the milk out of my cereal bowl and then cleaned her face with a paw.

Dirty bowl in hand, I checked in on Samuel, but his room was empty. When he hadn't gotten up at Stefan's arrival, I should have realized he was gone. He didn't have to work today.

It worried me, but I wasn't his mother. He didn't have to tell me where he was going anymore than I usually told him my plans. So I couldn't pry, no matter how worried I was. With that thought in mind I wrote him a note.

S sleeping in my closet.

I'm at work until?

Stop by if you need anything.


I left it on his bed then rinsed out my bowl and left it in the dishwasher. I started for the door, but the sight of the phone on the end table by the door stopped me.

Samuel had been in a bad way last night; I knew his father would want to know about it. I stared at the phone. I wasn't a snitch. If Samuel wanted the Marrok to know about his problems, he would have stayed in Aspen Creek. Samuel had his own cell phone-he could call Bran if he needed help. Which would be when Hell froze over. Samuel had taught me a lot about independence, which was actually an unusual trait for a werewolf.

Bran might be able to help. But it wouldn't be right for me to call him behind Samuel's back. I hesitated, then remembered that Samuel had called Zee to check up on me.

I picked up the phone and made the long-distance call to Montana.


Unless he wanted it to, Bran's voice didn't sound like it belonged to the most powerful werewolf in North America.

It sounded like it belonged to a nice young man. Bran was deceptive that way, all nice and polite. The act fooled a lot of wolves into stupidity. Me, I knew what the act hid.

"It's me," I said. "About Samuel."

He waited.

I started to say something and then guilt stopped my tongue. I knew darned well that what Samuel told me had been in confidence.

"Mercedes." This time Bran didn't sound like a nice young man.

"He had a little trouble last night," I said finally. "Do you know what happened to him in Texas?"

"He won't talk about Texas."

I drummed my fingers against my kitchen counter and then stopped when it reminded me of the vampire's mistress.

"You need to ask him about Texas," I said. Bran didn't ask people about the past as a rule. It had something to do with being very old, but more to do with being wolf. Wolves are very centered in the here and now.

"Is he all right?"

"I don't know."

"Are there any bodies?" he said dryly.

"No. Nothing like that. I shouldn't have called."

"Samuel is my son," Bran said softly. "You did right to call. Mercy, living in a town with a sorcerer isn't going to make him the safest roommate if something is upsetting him. You might consider moving in with Adam until they find the demon-rider."

"Demon-rider?" I asked, though I was thinking about what he'd said.

"Sorcerer, as opposed to demon-ridden, as the possessed are. Though there's not much to choose between them, except that the demon-ridden are easier to spot. They're in the middle of the carnage instead of on the sidelines."

"You mean sorcerers attract violence?" I asked. I should have called Bran for information about the sorcerer earlier.

"Does sugar water attract hornets? Violence, blood and evil of all kinds. Do you think I had Adam send his wolves out to help the vampires with this hunt because I like vampires?" Actually, I had thought Warren and Ben volunteered. "If there's a sorcerer about, all the wolves will have to hold tight to their control. So don't go around pushing buttons, honey. Especially with the younger wolves. You'll get hurt-or killed."

He'd been warning me about "pushing buttons" for as long as I could remember. I don't know why. I'm not stupid. I'm always careful when I torment werewolves... then I remembered Samuel's eyes last night.

"I won't," I promised, meaning it.

But then he said, "Good girl," and hung up.

As if he'd never doubted I'd do as he told me. Bran seldom had to worry about people not following his orders-except for me. I guess he'd forgotten about that.

It was a good thing there weren't any werewolves around to annoy. I'd like to think I was grown-up enough not to pick a fight just because Bran told me not to, but, still... I wouldn't have poked at Samuel, not in his current state, but it was probably a good thing Ben wasn't around.

Although it was not yet eight in the morning, there was a car waiting for me in the parking lot, a sky blue Miata convertible. Even after our talk last night, Adam had sent Honey out to babysit me again.

Sometimes you wonder what gets into parents when they name their children. I knew a girl named Helga who grew up to be five feet tall and weighed 95 pounds. Sometimes, though, sometimes, parents get it right.

Honey had waves of shimmering golden brown hair that fell over her shoulders to her hips. Her face was all soft curves and pouty lips, the kind of face you'd expect to see in a professional cheerleading outfit, though I've never seen Honey wear anything that wasn't classy.

"I've been waiting here for an hour and a half," she said, sounding miffed as she got out of her car. Today she was wearing creamy linen shorts that would show every smudge of dirt-if she irritated me too much today, I could always get her with my grease gun.

"It's Saturday," I told her amiably, cheered by my thoughts. "I work whatever hours I want to on Saturday. However, I believe in being fair. Since you had to wait for me, why don't you count that as a good effort and go on home?"

She raised an eyebrow. "Because Adam sent me here to watch you and make sure the boogeyman doesn't come and eat you. And as much as I'd like to see that happen, I don't disobey the Alpha."

There were a lot of reasons I didn't like Honey.

The car I was working on needed a new starter. That's how it all began. Three hours later I was still sorting through unlabeled dusty boxes in the storage shed that predated Gabriel's reign of order on my parts supply.

"Somewhere in here there should be three starters that fit a 1987 Fox," I told Gabriel, wiping my forehead off on my sleeve. I may not mind the heat usually, but the thermometer on the outside of the shed read 107 degrees.

"If you told me that somewhere in here you had Excalibur and the Holy Grail, I'd believe you." He grinned at me. He'd only come out after he'd finished the parts supply order so he still had energy to be happy. "Are you sure you don't want me to run down to the parts store and pick one up?"

"Fine," I said dropping a box of miscellaneous bolts on the floor of the shed. I shut the door and locked it, though if I'd left it open, maybe some nice thieves would come and clean it out for me. "Why don't you pick up some lunch for us while you're out? There's a good taco wagon by the car wash over on First."

"Honey, too?"

I glanced over at her car where she was sitting in air-conditioned comfort as she had been since I came out here. I hoped she'd had her oil changed recently-idling for hours could be hard on an engine.

She saw me looking at her and smiled unpleasantly, still not a hair out of place. I'd been sweating in a dusty and greasy shed all morning and the bruises Littleton left on my face were a lovely shade of yellow today.

"Yeah," I said reluctantly. "Take the lunch money out of petty cash. Use the business credit card for the starter."

Gabriel bounced back into the office and was on his way out by the time I made it to the door. The air-conditioning felt heavenly and I drank two glasses of water before going back to work. The garage wasn't as cool as the office, but it was a lot better than outside.

Honey followed me through the office to the shop and managed to ignore me at the same time. I noticed, with some satisfaction, that soon after she left the office, she broke out in a sweat.

I'd just had time to get a good start on a brake job when she spoke. "There's someone in the office."

I hadn't heard anyone, but I hadn't been listening. I wiped my hands hastily and headed back into the office. I wasn't officially opened, but a lot of my regular customers know I'm here on Saturdays more often than not.

As it happened the face was familiar.

"Mr. Black," I said. "More car problems?"

He started to look at me, but his eyes ran into trouble as they hit Honey and refused to move off of her. It was not an uncommon reaction. One more reason to hate Honey-not that I needed another one.

"Honey, this is Tom Black, a reporter who wants the skinny on what it's like to date Adam Hauptman, prince of the werewolves." I said it to get a rise out of her, but Honey disappointed me.

"Mr. Black," she said, coolly extending her hand.

He shook her hand, still staring at her, and then seemed to recover. He cleared his throat. "Prince of the Werewolves? Is he?"

"She can't talk to you, Mr. Black," Honey told him, though she glanced at me to make it clear that the words were directed at me. If she weren't more careful, she'd find herself outed as a werewolf. If she weren't dumber than a stump she'd have known I don't take orders. Not from Bran, not from Adam or Samuel-certainly not from Honey.

"No one ever told me not to talk to reporters," I said

"I will make it worth your while," Black said in a classic assumption close worthy of a used car salesman. He reached into his suit jacket and pulled out a roll of bills in a gold clip and set them on the counter. If I hadn't been so ticked off with Honey-and Adam for sticking me with her-I'd have laughed. But Honey was there, so I licked my lips and looked interested.

"Well..." I began.

Honey turned to me, vibrating with rage. "I hope that Adam lets me be the one to break your scrawny neck."

Yep. It wouldn't be long before everyone knew Honey was a werewolf. She was just too easy. I ought to have felt guilty for baiting her.

Instead, I rolled my eyes at her. " Please."

Black ignored Honey. "I want to know what you think about him personally. What is dating a werewolf like?" He gave me a charming smile, though his eyes were still watchful. "The public wants to know."

That last statement was too comic-book reporter for me to ignore. It pulled my attention from Honey. I considered Black thoughtfully for a moment. He smelled anxious-and angry. Not the emotions of a reporter about to get the story he wanted.

I pushed the money roll back at him. "Put that away. I'm pretty upset with Adam right now, so I'd really like to give you an earful." Especially with Honey watching. "You may not quote me, but the truth is that, for a domineering control freak, he's pretty damn nice. He's honest, hard working, and generous. He's a good father. He's loyal to his people and he takes care of them. It doesn't make a very good story, but that's your problem, not mine. If you are looking for dirt on Adam Hauptman, let me save you a lot of fruitless effort. There is no dirt."

I don't know what kind of a reaction I expected, but it wasn't the one I got. He ignored the bills on the counter and leaned down over it, invading my space.

"He's a good father?" he asked intently. The fake smile vanished from his face. I could smell his anxiety winning over anger.

I didn't answer. I wasn't going to take responsibility for directing the eyes of the press toward Jesse, when Adam had been so careful to keep her out of the way. Besides, the reporter's strange reactions made me think there was something else going on.

Black closed his eyes briefly. "Please," he said. "It's important."

I took a deep breath and could smell the truth of his words. The first complete truth he'd uttered in my presence. This was very important to him.

I shuffled through possibilities and then asked, "Who do you know that is a werewolf?"

"Are you a werewolf?" he asked.

"No." Not that he could have known if I lied, because he was decidedly human.

The same thought must have occurred to him. He waved away his last question impatiently. "It doesn't matter. If you'll tell me why you say he's a good father... I'll tell you about the werewolves I know."

Fear. Not the kind of fear you feel when unexpectedly confronted by a monster in the dark, but the slower, stronger fear of something terrible that was going to happen. Fear and pain of an old wound, the kind that Samuel had smelled of last night. I hadn't been able to help Samuel, not enough.

I considered Mr. Black who might or might not be a reporter.

"Your word you won't use this for a story," I said, ignoring Honey's raised eyebrows.

"You have it."

"Are you a reporter?" I asked.

He nodded his head, a quick up and down followed by a get-on-with-it glare.

I thought a moment. "Let me give you an example. Adam is supposed to be speaking to government officials about legislation dealing with werewolves. He's up to his neck in touchy negotiations. When his daughter needed him, he dropped everything and came back here-though he has a number of trusted people he could have called upon to take care of her."

"She's human, though, right? His daughter. I read that they can't have werewolf children."

I frowned at him, trying to see the point of his question. "Does it matter?"

He rubbed his face tiredly. "I don't know. Does it? Would he treat her differently if she was a werewolf?"

"No," said Honey. Black was being so interesting, I'd forgotten about Honey. "No. Adam takes care of his own. Wolf, human or whatever." She looked at me pointedly. "Even when they don't want him to."

It felt weird to exchange a smile with Honey, so I stopped as soon as I could. I think she felt the same way because she turned her head to stare out the window.

"Or when they don't belong to him," I told her. Then I turned to Black. "So tell me about your werewolves."

"Three years ago, my daughter survived an attack by a rogue werewolf," he said, speaking quickly as if that would make it easier for him to handle. "She was ten."

"Ten?" whispered Honey. "And she survived?"

Like Honey, I'd never heard of someone attacked so young surviving-especially not a girl. Females don't survive the change as well as males. That was why Adam's pack only had three females and nearly ten times that many males.

Lost in his tragic story, Black didn't seem to hear Honey's comment. "There was another werewolf. He killed her attacker before it could finish her off. He brought her back to us and told us what to do for her. He told me to hide her. He said that a young girl might... might have it rough in a pack."

"Yes," said Honey fervently. At my questioning look she said, "Unmated females belong to the Alpha. Your wolf instincts kick in, so it's not terrible"-her eyes said differently-"even if you don't particularly like the Alpha. But a girl so young... I'm not certain that an Alpha would spare her." She took a deep breath and whispered, almost to herself, "I know some of them would even enjoy it."

Black nodded, as if this wasn't news to him-though it was to me. I thought I knew all there was to know about werewolves.

"What about when she first changed?" I asked. Humans are not equipped to deal with a new-made werewolf.

"I built a cage in the basement," he said. "And every full moon I chain her and lock her in."

Every full moon even after three years? I thought. She should have managed to gain control of her wolf by now.

"Two months ago she broke the chain to her collar." Black looked ill. "I got a thicker chain, but this time... My wife told me that she gouged a hole in the cement. I was in Portland covering a trade conference. I called the werewolf. The one who saved her. He told me she was getting stronger, that I had to find a pack for her. He told me our local Alpha would be a poor choice. When he found out I was in Portland, he gave me Hauptman's name-and yours."

I felt sorry for his daughter-and for him. Sorrier still because finding an Alpha who wouldn't abuse her might be the least of his problems if she hadn't managed to control her wolf yet. Wolves who are out of control are killed by their Alpha so they don't hurt anyone else.

I didn't want to give Adam responsibility for a young girl's death.

"There may be someone closer to where you live," I said. "Let me make a phone call."

"No," said Black, taking two steps back. He might not be a werewolf, but he was fast. I never noticed the gun until it was in his hands. "It's loaded with silver," he said, the spike of fear I felt from him made me want to pat him on the back and tell him it would be all right-or it would if he didn't shoot me and Honey didn't kill him.

I don't think he was used to combat situations, because he ignored Honey and kept the gun on me.

"He's not going to shoot anyone, Honey," I told her as she started to move. "It's all right, Mr. Black, I won't mention your name. Has your contact told you anything about the Marrok?"

He shook his head.

Honey waited, her eyes locked on his gun.

"Okay. The Marrok is like, the Alpha of all the Alphas." That there was a head werewolf was kind of an open secret. Everyone knew that there was someone pulling the werewolves' strings, and there was a lot of speculation about who it might be. So I hadn't given away any great secret.

Bran wasn't out to the public-if things went badly, he wanted to make sure that the sanctuary he'd established in Montana remained a safe haven. Even if he had been out, no one would think that he was the Marrok. Being unremarkable was one of Bran's favorite talents and he was good at it.

"He'll know which Alphas will take care of your daughter, and which ones to stay away from better than any lone wolf could. It's his job to take care of the werewolves, Mr. Black, to make sure the ones like your daughter are safe."

And to make sure the ones who were not able to control their wolfish side were killed quickly and painlessly before they started killing people, people like their parents and families.

"All right," he said, at last. "Call him. But if you say something I don't like, I'll kill you."

I believed him; he had the look of a man with his back to the wall. Honey eased closer, close enough that she'd probably be able to stop him before he pulled the trigger. Probably. If she wanted to badly enough.

I took out my cell phone and placed the call.

"Hello?" It was a woman's voice.

Damn. Bran's wife didn't like me. Not like Honey disliked me, but the I 'll-kill-you-if-I-get-a-chance kind of not like. She'd tried it a couple of times. She was the reason I always called Bran's cell phone and not his home number.

"This is Mercedes," I said. "I'm calling on official business. I need to talk to your husband." I heard Bran's voice, but he was speaking too low for me to hear anything except the command in his tone. There were a few clicks and unidentifiable noises and then Bran came on the line.

"How can I help you?" he asked sounding calm, though I could hear his mate's bitter voice in the background.

Briefly, I explained the situation to him. I didn't tell him that I was worried about a wolf who couldn't control herself after three years, but he must have heard it in my voice because he interrupted me.

"It's all right, Mercy. A child chained in the basement doesn't learn control because it is not expected of her. With a little help she might be fine. Any child who survives a werewolf attack before adolescence has willpower to spare. Where does he live?"

I relayed Bran's question.

Black shook his head. He still had his gun out, pointed at me.

I gave an exaggerated sigh. "No one intends your daughter harm."

"Fine," said Bran's voice in my ear. "Roughly three years ago? A rogue werewolf killed by a lone wolf. There were two incidents that might fit, but only one of the lone wolves would take it upon himself to help a girl. Tell your gentleman that he's from somewhere near Washington D.C., probably in Virginia, and his werewolf friend is Josef Riddlesback."

"Not a good idea," I told Bran as I looked Black in the eyes. It was hard to blame him for the gun when I could read the fear in his face. "He's worried about his daughter. She's thirteen and he doesn't want her hurt." I had to use the tone of my voice to convey just how worried Black was. Much too worried to amaze him with Bran's powers of deduction.

"I see. A little paranoid is he?"

"Absolutely," I agreed.

There was a short pause, then Bran said, "Do you have a sheet of paper handy?"


"Right. Josef is right, neither of the pack leaders in that area are the sort I'd trust with a child. I'm going to give you the names of the pack leaders who would be safe with a child. Leaders who would not mind a reporter knowing who they are. It is very short, and none of them are anywhere near Virginia. There are others. Do you believe his story?"

"Yes," I said.

"Then I'll also give you places where the Alphas have not come out to the public and don't want to do so, but who would take care of a young girl. If he wants to chance it, he could go there and see if the Alpha would meet with him."

I wrote down the names he told me, four men, including Adam, complete with phone numbers. Then I wrote down fifteen towns. Nineteen Alphas out of maybe a hundred and fifty that Bran thought could be trusted to help a child without abusing her.

It made me acknowledge just how lucky I was that the werewolf relative my mother went to for help once she realized I could turn into a coyote belonged to the Marrok and not to some other pack.

"You can send them to me, too," he said, when he was done.

"But-" I bit my tongue. I wasn't going to tell a reporter that the Marrok was one of the wolves who wasn't out yet.

"I trust your judgement, Mercy-and I've raised a few strays before." Like me.

"I know."

He must have heard the gratitude in my voice, because I heard the smile in his. "One or two, anyway, Mercy. Tell your gentleman that he needs to find someone to help as soon as possible. Unless he uses silver, which will hurt her, I doubt he'll be able to keep her in his cage forever. Not to mention that she doesn't need the moon to change. Some day she's going to be hurt or startled into changing and then she'll kill someone." Bran hung up.

I gave Tom Black the list and explained what it meant. Then I gave him Bran's warning. As the words sank in, he lowered his gun, but I don't think it was on purpose. It was more as though he was sunk in despair and nothing mattered anymore.

"Listen," I told him. "There's nothing you can do about her being a werewolf-"

"She tried to commit suicide," he told me, tears welling in his eyes. "The day after the full moon. She's worried she will hurt someone. She used a knife on her wrist, but the cuts kept healing too fast. I'd take her to a damned shrink, but I don't want to risk telling anyone what she is. She already thinks she's a monster, she doesn't need anyone else telling her so."

I saw Honey's eyes widen, when he said that bit about being a monster. From the expression on her face, she thought she was a monster, too.

I frowned at her. I didn't want to have sympathy for Honey-it was so much easier to dislike her. She frowned back.

"Put the gun away," I told Black in the firm voice that sometimes worked on werewolves. I guess it worked on grieving fathers, too, because he slipped the pistol back in his shoulder holster.

"She doesn't need a shrink," I told him. "Every thirteen year old girl wants to kill themselves at some point or other."

I remembered being thirteen. When I was fourteen my foster father had killed himself, and that permanently removed the impulse. I'd never do that to people I cared about.

"I expect getting locked in the basement once a month doesn't help," I continued. "The Marrok told me that there's every reason to expect she'll be able to control her wolf if you find an Alpha to guide her."

He turned away and raised his hands to his face. When he turned back his tears were gone, though his eyes were moist. He took the piece of paper I'd written on, and, only after I handed it to him, the roll of money. "Thank you for your help."

"Wait," I said, glancing at Honey. "Mr. Black, that werewolf who talks to you, has he ever shown you his wolf?"


"Has he shown your daughter?"

"We only saw him once, the night he brought her back to us. The night of the attack. He left a number where he could be reached."

"So the only wolf you've seen is your daughter, chained and out of control in her cage-and the only wolf she's ever seen is the one who attacked her?"

"That's right."

Honey was, if anything, more beautiful in her wolf form than she was in her human form. I looked at her. Wolves communicate very well without words; she understood what I asked her to do. She also very clearly didn't understand

After a few moments of silent arguing while Black grew puzzled, I finally said, "Honey, as much as I hate to admit it, your wolf is glorious. No one would ever think you were a monster-any more than a Siberian tiger or a golden eagle is a monster."

Her mouth opened and closed, then she glanced at Black. "All right," she said in a curiously shy voice. "Can I borrow your bathroom?"

"It will take her a little time," I told Black when she was gone. "Fifteen minutes or so-and she might wait a few minutes beyond that. Changing is painful and newly changed werewolves tend to be a little grumpy about it."

"You know an awful lot about werewolves," he said.

"I was raised by them," I told him. I waited a moment or two, but he didn't ask me why. I suppose he was more concerned with other matters right then.

"If I were you," I told him. "I'd bring your daughter here to Adam." Bran thought the girl might make it with a little help-that she wasn't a hopeless case. Adam was very strong-and he had Samuel here, who was good with young wolves. Her chances in Adam's pack were better than they would be anywhere else. "Adam has a big house because pack members and other wolves have the tendency to drop in on him without a moment's notice. Big enough that you and your wife could stay for a while." Adam would honor my invitation. I knew him well enough to know that he wouldn't even resent it. "With Adam around, your daughter wouldn't have to be caged-and I think that she, and the rest of your family, would benefit from being around a pack of wolves for a while. They are dangerous and terrifying, but they can be beautiful, too." Adam would keep his pack from scaring the humans.

"Josef-the werewolf I know-told me that there are benefits to being a werewolf. He said-" Black's voice tightened and he had to stop for a moment. "He said that hunting was the best thing he'd every felt. The kill. The blood."

Stupid werewolf, I thought. Heck of a thing to tell the parent of a thirteen-year-old girl, truthful or not.

"Werewolves heal incredibly fast," I told him. "They are strong, graceful. She'll never grow old. And the pack... I don't know how to explain it to you, I'm not sure that I understand it myself, but a wolf with a good pack is never alone."

I looked him straight in the eye and said, "She can be happy, Mr. Black. Safe and happy, and not a danger to herself or anyone else. It's horrible that she was attacked and a miracle that she survived-I've never heard of a child that young surviving an attack. Being a werewolf is different, but it is not terrible."

I smelled fur and turned to look at the doorway before Honey walked in. She was a small werewolf, about the height of a large German Shepherd though heavier in the body and leg. Her fur was a light fawn color with a darker undercoat and a silvery stripe down her back almost the same color as her crystal gray eyes.

A werewolf's shoulder is articulated more like a tiger or bear than a wolf, giving them lateral motion and the ability to use their impressive claws. With some of the bigger males, the effect can be almost grotesque, but Honey fit together well. When she moved she looked gracile and strong, just not entirely canid.

I smiled at her-she wagged her tail and ducked her head. It took me a moment to realize why she did that. Since Adam had claimed me as his mate, I was higher in the pecking order than she was.

I didn't remember any of the rest of Adam's pack acting submissive to me, though. But then I didn't usually run into Adam's pack in wolf form-and in human form... well, theoretically their behavior should be the same. But some things were harder on a human mind than a wolf's. I imagine they all had a hard time being submissive to a coyote, especially because they all knew I was Adam's mate only as a courtesy.

I felt my smile widen though, as I thought about the havoc I could cause by insisting that they all treat me with proper pack etiquette. Wouldn't work; I was actually surprised that Adam's claim had worked well enough to keep some of them from bothering me, but it might be worth trying just to see Adam's face.

Honey's summer coat wasn't as splendid as her winter one, but it revealed the play of muscle in a way her thicker fur would not have. She knew it, too, and found a square of sunlight to pose in.

Black took a step back as she approached, but, after that first step, he held his ground. Honey gave him time to adjust before she continued forward, sitting down within touching distance.

"She's beautiful," he said, his voice only a little tight. If I hadn't been able to hear the speed of his pulse, I wouldn't have known how scared he was. If he reacted this way to his daughter, it was no wonder she was having troubles.

Honey, though, had been a werewolf for a long time and her control was excellent. She gave no sign that he was able to detect how much the scent of his fear was exciting her, and after a few minutes his fear began to die down.

"My daughter could be like this?" he asked me, sounding more naked than a man should when surrounded by strangers.

I nodded my head.

"How soon?"

"On her own? That depends upon her. But in the presence of an Alpha, immediately."

"No more cages," he whispered.

I couldn't let him think that. "Not metal ones," I told him. "But once she is a member of the pack, she'll fall out of your control and into the Alpha's. That can be a cage of sorts, though a more comfortable cage."

He took a deep, shaky breath. "Can she understand me?" he asked, nodding toward Honey.

"Yes, but she can't talk."

"All right." He looked straight in her eyes, not realizing he was challenging her. I almost said something to him, but Honey didn't seem to be bothered, so I let it go.

"If you had a daughter," he asked her, "would you bring her here? Would you trust her to Hauptman?"

She smiled at him, not so widely as to display her sharp white teeth, and wagged her tail.

He looked at me. "If I bring her here, will he take her away from us?"

I wasn't sure how to answer him. Adam wouldn't see it that way, to him the wolves were all his family, but conveying that to someone who hadn't be around a pack was difficult-and I'm not sure that a father would find it any better. How do you give up your child, even for their own good? That was a question I had never asked my mother.

"He'll take her under his wing," I said at last. "He'll take responsibility for her welfare-and he will not lightly give up that responsibility. He'd never refuse to let you see her. If she is unhappy in Adam's pack, there are other options, especially once she has control of herself."

"She can become a lone wolf," he said, relaxing.

I shook my head. I wouldn't lie to him. "No. They'd never let a female out on her own. There are too few of them, for one thing, and the males... are too protective to allow a female to fend for themselves. But she could request to change packs."

The lines on his face deepened and he swore. Three times. Honey whined. She might have been sympathetic, or just protesting the foul language. I didn't trust myself to predict Honey anymore.

"What are your alternatives?" I asked him. "If she kills someone, the wolves will have to hunt her down. How would she feel if she hurts you or her mother?"

He took out his cell phone and stared at it.

"Would you like me to call him for you?" I asked.

"No," he said and riffled around in his pocket for the paper with Adam's phone number on it. He stared at it for a moment, then almost whispered, "I'll call him tonight."

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