She tried not to listen to the unfamiliar sounds of someone else getting ready for bed as she rummaged in her closet for the old blanket she kept in it, wishing again for a nice cheap carpet instead of the gleaming hardwood floor that was pretty to look at, but cold on bare feet and sure to be hard on her backside when she tried to sleep.

The door opened while she was kneeling on the floor, folding the blanket into a makeshift mattress as far as she could from where he would be sleeping. "You can take the bed," she began as she turned around and found herself at eye level with a large reddish-brown werewolf.

He wagged his tail and smiled at her obvious surprise before brushing past her and curling up on the blanket. He wiggled a bit and then put his head down on his forepaws and closed his eyes, to all appearances dropping off immediately to sleep. She knew better, but he didn't stir as she went into the bathroom herself or when she came out dressed in her warmest pair of sweats.

She wouldn't have been able to sleep with a man in her apartment, but somehow, the wolf was less threatening. This wolf was less threatening. She bolted the door, turned out the light, and crawled into bed feeling safer than she had since the night she'd found out that there were monsters in the world.

The footsteps on the stairs the next morning didn't bother her at first. The family who lived across from her was in and out at all times of the day or night. She pulled the pillow over her head to block the noise out, but then Anna realized the brisk, no-nonsense tread belonged to Kara  -  and that she had a werewolf in her apartment. She sat bolt upright and looked at Charles.

The wolf was more beautiful in the daylight than he had been at night, his fur really red, she saw, set off by black on his legs and paws. He raised his head when she sat up and got to his feet when she did.

She put a finger to her lips as Kara knocked sharply on the door.

"Anna, you in there, girl? Did you know that someone is parked in your spot again? Do you want me to call the tow truck or do you have a man in there for once?"

Kara wouldn't just go away.

"I'm here, just a minute." She looked around frantically, but there was nowhere to hide a werewolf. He wouldn't fit in the closet, and if she closed the bathroom door, Kara would want to know why  -  just as she'd demand to know why Anna suddenly had a dog the size of an Irish wolfhound and not nearly as friendly looking in her living room.

She gave Charles one last frantic look and then hurried over to the door as he trotted off to the bathroom. She heard it click shut behind him as she unbolted the door.


"I'm back," said Kara breezily as she came in, setting a pair of bags down on the table. Her dark-as-night skin looked richer than usual for her week of tropical sun. "I stopped on the way home and bought some breakfast for us. You don't eat enough to keep a mouse alive."

Her gaze caught on the closed bathroom door. "You do have someone here." She smiled, but her eyes were wary. Kara had made no secret of the fact that she didn't like Justin, who Anna had explained away, truthfully enough, as an old boyfriend.

"Mmm." Anna was miserably aware that Kara wouldn't leave until she saw who was in the bathroom. For some reason Kara had taken Anna under her wing the very first day she'd moved in, shortly after she'd been Changed.

Just then, Charles opened the bathroom door and stepped just through the doorway. "Do you have a rubber band, Anna?"

He was fully dressed and human, but Anna knew that was impossible. It had been less than five minutes since he'd gone into the bathroom, and a werewolf took a lot longer than that to change back to human form.

She cast a frantic glance at Kara  -  but her neighbor was too busy staring at the man in the bathroom doorway to take note of Anna's shock.

Kara's rapt gaze made Anna take a second look as well; she had to admit that Charles, his blue-black hair hanging free to his waist in a thick sheet that made him look strangely naked despite his perfectly respectable flannel shirt and jeans, was worth staring at. He gave Kara a small smile before turning his attention back to Anna.

"I seem to have misplaced my hair band. Do you have another one?"

She gave him a jerky nod and brushed past him into the bathroom. How had he changed so fast? She could hardly ask him how he'd done it with Kara in the room, however.

He smelled good. Even after three years it was disconcerting to notice such things about people. Usually she tried to ignore what her nose told her  -  but she had to force herself not to stop and take a deep lungful of his rich scent.

"And just who are you?" Anna heard Kara ask suspiciously.

"Charles Cornick." She couldn't tell by the sound of his voice whether he was bothered by Kara's unfriendliness or not. "You are?"

"This is Kara, my downstairs neighbor," Anna told Mm, handing him a hair band as she slipped by him and back into the main room. "Sorry, I should have introduced you. Kara, meet Charles Cornick who is visiting from Montana. Charles, meet Kara Mosley, my downstairs neighbor. Now shake and be nice."

She'd meant the admonition for Kara, who could be acerbic if she took a dislike to someone  -  but Charles raised an eyebrow at her before he turned back to Kara and offered a long-fingered hand.

"From Montana?" asked Kara as she took his hand and shook it firmly once.

He nodded and began French-braiding his hair with quick, practiced motions. "My father sent me out here because he'd heard there was a man giving Anna a bad time."

And with that one statement, Anna knew, he won Kara over completely.

"Justin? You're gonna take care of that rat bastard?" She gave Charles an appraising look. "Now you're in good shape, don't get me wrong  -  but Justin is a bad piece of business. I lived in Cabrini Green until my mama got smart and married her a good man. Those projects, though, they grew a certain sort of predator  -  the kind that loves violence for its own sake. That Justin, he has dead eyes  -  sent me back twenty years the first time I saw him. He's hurt people before and liked it. You're not going to frighten him off with just a warning."

The corner of Charles's lip turned up and his eyes warmed, changing his appearance entirely. "Thank you for the heads-up," he told her.

Kara gave him a regal nod. "If I know Anna, there's not an ounce of food to be found in the whole apartment. You need to feed that girl up. There's bagels and cream cheese in those bags on the table  -  and no, I don't mean to stay. I've got a week's worth of work waiting on me, but I couldn't go without knowing that Anna would eat something."

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