Back in human form, Anna lay on the bed beside Charles. Rashid, who was a real doctor as well as a werewolf, had come and gone, replacing Boyd's makeshift bandage with something more sterile-looking. He told Anna that Charles was unconscious due to blood loss.

Boyd had come in afterward and advised her to leave Charles before he woke up. The room was reinforced to withstand an enraged wolf  -  Anna was not.

He hadn't argued when she refused. He'd just bolted the door behind him when he left. She waited until he was gone and then changed. There was clothing in the old-fashioned wardrobe, lots of things that were one size fits all. She found a T-shirt and a pair of jeans that didn't fit too badly.

Charles didn't notice when she got on the bed with him. She put her head next to his on the pillow and listened to him breathe.

He didn't wake quietly. One moment he was limp and the next he'd exploded to his feet. She'd never watched him shift and, although she knew his change was miraculously swift, she hadn't known it was beautiful. It started with his feet, then like a blanket of red fur the change rolled up his body, leaving behind it a malevolent, very angry werewolf dripping blood and bandages.

Bright yellow eyes glanced around the room, taking in the closed door, the bars on the windows, and then her.

She lay very still, letting him absorb his surroundings and see there was no threat. When he looked at her a second time, she sat up and went to work on his bandages.

He growled at her, and she tapped his nose gently. "You've lost enough blood today. The bandages don't advertise your weakness any more than bleeding all over would. At least this way, you aren't going to rain the carpet."

When she finished, she threaded her fingers through the ruff of fur around his neck and bent her head to his.

"I thought I had lost you."

He stood for her embrace for a minute before wriggling free. He got off the bed and stalked to the door.


"It's bolted," she told him, hopping off the bed and padding after him.

He gave her a patient look.

There was a click and the door was opened by a slender, unremarkable-looking man who appeared to be in his early twenties. He crouched on his heels and stared Charles in the face before glancing up at her.

The force of personality in his eyes hit her like a blow to the stomach, so she wasn't entirely surprised when she recognized his voice.

"Shot three times in one day," the Marrok murmured. "I think Chicago has been harder on you than usual, my son. I'd best take you home, don't you think?"

She didn't know what to say so she didn't say anything. She put her hand on Charles's back and swallowed.

Charles looked at his father.

"Have you asked her?"

Charles growled low in his chest.

The Marrok laughed and stood up. "Nevertheless, I will ask. You are Anna?" It wasn't quite a question.

Her throat was too dry to say anything, so she nodded.

"My son would like you to accompany us to Montana. I assure you that if anything is not to your liking, I'll see to it that you can relocate to wherever suits you better."

Charles growled and Bran raised an eyebrow as he looked at him. "I am the Marrok, Charles. If the child wants to go elsewhere, she can."

Anna leaned against Charles's hip. "I think I'd like to see Montana," she said.


Eileen Wilks

Chapter 1

Kai Tallman Michalski stood at her kitchen sink looking out the window. In daytime she would have seen mesquite, tumbleweed, and the pale grasses of winter stretched across land as flat as her frying pan. But it was after eight o'clock at night in late January, and her apartment complex perched at the very edge of town. Beyond the reach of the parking area's lights, across the wide road that ran along the back of the complex, darkness waited.

Lightning stitched from one black-hung pocket of sky to the next. Eight seconds later, thunder rambled like a giant's empty belly.

Her own belly tightened.

"Where's your plastic wrap?"

She twitched all over like a nervous horse.

"Chill," Jackie said. "It's just me."

Kai turned away from the window to see her friend standing in a tiny kitchen aglow with color. Ghostly patterns swam through the air, some soft as a soap bubble, some so vibrant they seemed almost solid.

She clenched her fist, digging her fingernails into her palm. Pain was a quick way to focus  -  handy, too, since it was always available. The colors faded to a transparent overlay, barely visible. "Sorry. I phased out watching the storm rolling in on us. Listen, y'all don't have to clean up."

Jackie rolled her eyes. The transparent sea around her was olive shaded with royal blue. Small, discrete shapes swam in her colors like agitated minnows. "Plastic wrap," she repeated. She jiggled the platter she held, still half-full of broccoli, carrots, and bell pepper.

As usual, the vegetables had gone largely unappreciated. Kai always put them out  -  she liked them, even if no one else did. "In the bottom drawer by the stove. But there isn't much mess, and the storm  -  "

"Now, Kai." A chunky blonde zipped through the arch between the kitchen and the living area, her hands full of glasses. The colors swimming around her were as quick and lively as her hands as she plunked glasses in the dishwasher. Ginger was twenty years older than Kai and Jackie, but she didn't move like it. "That storm will bother you a lot more than it does us. You need to learn to accept help gracefully, like Jackie does."

Kai's smile stretched across her face, slow and amused. "Jackie does almost everything gracefully. Then she opens her mouth."

"Hey." Jackie's eyebrows lifted above eyes almost the same warm mocha as her skin. "You think I can't chew on my foot gracefully?"

Ginger patted the taller woman on the arm. "We love you anyway, sweetie. So," she said, ripping off a paper towel and turning on the water to dampen it. "Y'all are going to the rally tomorrow, right?"

"Count me out." Jackie's colors looked upset, the shapes breaking up and re-forming. "If what Kai said about those two people who were killed is true  -  "

"It is," Kai said quietly, opening the refrigerator to put away three unopened Cokes and two cans of Dr. Pepper. "You won't read about it in the paper, but they were both Gifted."

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