He stopped outside the security gates and let his gaze drift where it would, hoping instincts would find the woman. He could smell another werewolf, but the ventilation in the airport defeated his ability to pinpoint the scent. His gaze caught first on a young girl with an Irish-pale complexion, whiskey-colored curly hair, and the defeated look of someone who was beaten on a regular basis. She looked tired, cold, and far too thin. It made him angry to see it, and he was already too angry to be safe, so he forced his gaze away.
There was a woman dressed in a business suit that echoed the warm chocolate of her skin. She didn't look quite like an Anna, but she carried herself in such a way that he could see her defying her Alpha to call the Marrok. She was obviously looking for someone. He almost started forward, but then her face changed as she found the person she was looking for - and it was not him.
He started a second sweep of the airport when a small, hesitant voice from just to his left said, "Sir, have you just come from Montana?"
It was the whiskey-haired girl. She must have approached him while he'd been looking elsewhere - something she wouldn't have been able to do if he weren't standing in the middle of a freaking airport.
At least he didn't have to look for his father's contact anymore. With her this close, not even the artificial air currents could hide that she was a werewolf. But it wasn't his nose alone that told him that she was something far rarer.
At first he thought she was submissive. Most werewolves were more or less dominant. Gentler-natured people weren't usually cussed enough to survive the brutal transformation from human to werewolf. Which meant that submissive werewolves were few and far between.
Then he realized that the sudden change in his anger and the irrational desire to protect her from the crowds streaming past were indications of something else. She wasn't a submissive either, though many might mistake her for that: She was an Omega.
Right then he knew that whatever else he did in Chicago, he was going to kill whoever had given her that brused look.
Up close he was even more impressive; she could feel his energy licking lightly over her like a snake tasting its prey. Anna kept her gaze fully on the floor, waiting for his answer.
"I am Charles Cornick," he said. "The Marrok's son. You must be Anna."
"Did you drive here or catch a cab?"
"I don't have a car," she said.
He growled something she didn't quite catch. "Can you drive?"
She nodded. "Good."
She drove well, if a little overcautiously - which trait he didn't mind at all, though it didn't stop him from bracing one hand against the dash of the rental. She hadn't said anything when he told her to drive them to her apartment, though he hadn't missed the dismay she felt.
He could have told her that his father had instructed him to keep her alive if he could - and to do that he had to stick close. He didn't want to scare her any more than she already was. He could have told her that he had no intention of bedding her, but he tried not to lie. Not even to himself. So he stayed silent.
As she drove them down the expressway in the rented SUV, his wolf-brother had gone from the killing rage caused by the crowded airplane to a relaxed contentment Charles had never felt before. The two other Omega wolves he'd met in his long lifetime had done something similar to him, but not to this extent.
This must be what it was like to be fully human.
The anger and the hunter's wariness that his wolf always held was only a faint memory, leaving behind only the determination to take this one to mate - Charles had never felt anything like that either.
She was pretty enough, though he'd like to feed her up and soften the stiff wariness in her shoulders. The wolf wanted to bed her and claim her as his own. Being of a more cautious nature than his wolf, he would wait until he knew her a little better before deciding to court her.
"My apartment isn't much," she said in an obvious effort to break the silence. The small rasp in her voice told him that her throat was dry.
She was frightened of him. Being his father's chosen executioner, he was used to being feared, though he'd never enjoyed it.
He leaned against the door to give her a little more space and looked out at the city lights so she'd feel safe stealing a few glances at him if she wanted to. He'd been quiet, hoping she would get used to him, but he thought now that might have been a mistake.
"Don't worry," he told her. "I am not fussy. Whatever your apartment is like, it is doubtless more civilized than the Indian lodge I grew up in."
"An Indian lodge?"
"I'm a little older than I look," he said, smiling a little. "Two hundred years ago, an Indian lodge was pretty fancy housing in Montana." Like most old wolves he didn't like talking about the past, but he found he'd do worse than that to set her at ease.
"I'd forgotten you might be older than you look," she said apologetically. She'd seen the smile, he thought, because the level of her fear dropped appreciably. "There aren't any older wolves in the pack here."
"A few," he disagreed with her as he noted that she said "the pack" not "my pack." Leo was seventy or eighty, and his wife was a lot older than that - old enough that they should have appreciated the gift of an Omega instead of allowing her to be reduced to this abased child who cringed whenever he looked at her too long. "It can be difficult to tell how old a wolf is. Most of us don't talk about it. It's hard enough adjusting without chatting incessantly about the old days."
She didn't reply, and he looked for something else they could talk about. Conversation wasn't his forte; he left that to his father and his brother, who both had clever tongues.
"What tribe are you from?" she asked before he found a topic. "I don't know a lot about the Montana tribes."
"My mother was Salish," he said. "Of the Flathead tribe."
She snuck a quick look at his perfectly normal forehead. Ah, he thought, relieved, there was a good story he could tell her. "Do you know how the Flatheads got their name?"
She shook her head. Her face was so solemn he was tempted to make something up to tease her. But she didn't know him well enough for that, so he told her the truth.
"Many of the Indian tribes in the Columbia Basin, mostly other Salish peoples, used to flatten the foreheads of their infants - the Flatheads were among the few tribes that did not."