But they both knew who would win.

Anna had been stunned to stillness by what Leo had revealed, but that ended when Leo attacked. She couldn't help the little yip she let out, anymore than she could help her instinctive lunge forward to protect Charles.

A strong pair of workman's hands gripped her by the ruff of her neck and pulled her back despite the scrabbling of her claws on the hardwood floor.

"Here, now," Boyd's rumble hit her ears. "Steady on. This isn't your fight."

His voice, one she was used to obeying, calmed her so she could think. It also helped that Charles avoided Leo's first strike with a minimal movement of his shoulders.

The other wolves had come to their feet and part of her registered Justin's insistent chanting, "Kill him, kill him." She wasn't sure which wolf he wanted to die. He hated Leo for controlling him and for being Isabelle's mate. Maybe he didn't care which one died.

Leo struck three times in rapid succession, missing each time. He'd committed to the last blow, and when it didn't land he had to take an awkward step forward.

Charles took advantage of the stumble and stepped into Leo, and in a graceful movement she couldn't quite follow did something to Leo's shoulder that had the Alpha roaring in rage and pain.

The next few things happened so fast, Anna was never certain in what order they occurred.

There was a rapid double bark of a gun. Boyd's hands loosened their grip on her fur as he swore, and Isabelle gave a frenetic, excited laugh.

It took Anna only a glance to see what had happened. Isabelle was holding a gun, watching the fight, waiting for another clear shot at Charles.


Anna broke free of Boyd's loosened grip and sprinted across the room.

From the mantel, Isabelle looked Anna squarely in her eyes and said sharply, "Stop, Anna."

She was so sure of Anna's obedience, she didn't even wait to make certain Anna listened before turning her attention back to the battling men.

Anna felt the force of Isabelle's command as it rolled by her like a breeze that raffled her hair. It didn't slow her down at all.

She gathered her hind quarters underneath her and launched. Her teeth closed on Isabelle's arm, and she felt the bone crack with a noise that satisfied the wolf's anger. The force of her leap was such that she pulled Isabelle off the six-foot-high mantel and slammed her into the fireplace as they both tumbled down  -  Anna's jaws still locked around the arm that had held the gun.

She crouched there, waiting for Isabelle to do something, but the other woman just lay there. Someone came up behind them, and Anna growled a warning.

"Easy," Boyd said, his calm voice touching her as Isabelle's order had not.

His hand rested on her back and she increased her growl, but he didn't pay any attention to her: he was looking at Isabelle.

"Dead," he grunted. "Serves her right for forgetting you aren't just another submissive wolf who has to listen to her. Let go, Anna. You caved her head in on the fireplace. She's gone." But when Anna reluctantly let go, Boyd made sure Isabelle was dead by twisting her head until her neck made a sick-sounding pop. He picked the gun up off the floor.

Staring at Isabelle's broken body, Anna began to shake. She lifted a foot, but she didn't know whether she was going to take a step closer or a step away. A chair hit her in the side and reminded her that there was a fight going on  -  and Isabelle had shot at Charles twice.

If he was hurt, he showed no sign of it. He was moving as easily as he had in the beginning, and Leo was staggering, one arm limp at his side. Charles swept behind him and hit him in the back of the neck with the edge of his hand and Leo collapsed like a kite when the wind dies.

A soft, moaning howl rose from Boyd, who was still standing beside her, echoed by the other wolves as they mourned their Alpha's passing.

Ignoring them, Charles knelt beside Leo and, with the same motion Boyd had used on Isabelle, he made sure the broken neck was permanent.

He stayed there, on one knee and one foot, like a man proposing. He bowed his head and reached out again, this time to caress the dead man's face.

Justin's move was so fast, Anna didn't have a chance to sing a warning. She hadn't even noticed when he'd changed to his wolf form. He hit Charles like a battering ram and Charles went down beneath him.

But if Anna was frozen, Boyd was not. He shot Justin in the eye a split second before Justin's body hit Charles.

That fast it was over.

Boyd hauled Justin's limp body off Charles and dumped him to one side. Anna didn't remember moving but suddenly she was astraddle Charles and growling at Boyd.

He backed up slowly, his hands raised and empty. The gun was tucked into the belt of his slacks.

As soon as Boyd ceased to feel like a threat, Anna turned her attention to Charles. He was lying facedown on the floor, covered with blood  -  her nose told her that some of it was Boyd's, but some of it was his, too.

Despite the way he'd been fighting Leo, Isabelle had hit him at least once, she could see the bloody hole in his back. In wolf form she couldn't help him and it would take her too long to change.

She looked over her shoulder at Boyd.

He shrugged. "I can't help him unless I get closer than this."

She stared at him, challenging him with her eyes in a way she would never have done before today. It didn't seem to bother him. He just waited for her to make up her mind. The wolf didn't want to trust anyone with her mate  -  but she knew she didn't have a choice.

She hopped all the way over Charles's body, giving Boyd access. But she couldn't help her snarl when he rolled him over to check him for wounds. He found a second bullet hole in Charles's left calf.

Boyd shed his suit jacket and ripped off his dress shirt, scattering buttons all over the floor. He tore the silk shirt into strips and then, as he was bandaging Charles's with rapid experience, he began giving orders. "Holden, call in the rest of the pack  -  and start with Rashid. Tell him we need him to bring whatever he needs to treat a silver bullet wound  -  both bullets are out. When you've finished, call the Marrok and tell him what has happened. You can find his number in Isabelle's address book in the kitchen drawer under the phone."

Anna whined. Both of Isabelle's shots had hit.

"He's not going to die," Boyd told her, tying off the last bandage. He glanced around the room and swore. "This place looks like the last scene in Hamlet. Gardner, you and Simon start getting this mess cleaned up. Let's get Charles someplace quieter. He's not going to be a happy camper when he wakes, and all this blood isn't going to help." He picked Charles up. When he carried him out of the room, Anna was at his heels.

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