Hunting Ground Chapter THREE

BRAVE woman, thought Anna, to thoroughly antagonize us, then show us something that matters to her. There was nothing in Dana's face to show that their opinion was important to her-but Anna could see it in her body language.

Anna didn't know what to expect, but she drew in her breath when she got her first view of the painting. It was skillfully executed, exquisite in detail, color, and texture. A robust young woman with reddish hair and pale complexion leaned her head against a plastered wall and stared out of the painting at something or someone. There was a yellow flower, delicate and fine-textured, held in hands that were neither.

The colors were wrong, brighter-but there was something familiar in the curve of the woman's cheek and the shape of her shoulder.

"It looks like it was painted by one of the old Dutch masters," Anna said.

"Vermeer," Charles agreed. "But I've never seen this one."

The fae sighed and moved to a table. She began cleaning her brushes with quick, almost fevered movements.

"No one has, not since it perished in a fire a couple of centuries ago. And no one ever will because that painting isn't it." She looked at Anna. "Vermeer. Yes. What is the woman looking at?"

And it was then Anna saw it, the alien beneath the glamour. Alien and... recognizable. She didn't hurt me too bad, the troll had said. This woman was a predator, a top predator.

Uncomfortable under that strange gaze, Anna shook her head. "I don't know."

Dana made a sharp gesture with her hand. "You aren't looking at it."

True enough. Anna looked at the woman in the painting, who met her stare with clear blue eyes, several shades lighter than Dana's. The only answer that occurred to her was stupid, but she said it anyway. "Someone here in this room?"

Dana's shoulders drooped and she turned to Charles. "No. You see? When he finished the original, he dragged a peasant in from the streets-and even that uneducated fool could see it. Vermeer's students, the ones who were there the day the painter finished it, called it that, what the peasant told the Master: She Looks at Love. Vermeer himself titled it Woman with Yellow Flower or something prosaic, as he preferred."

Anna looked at the painting, and the more she looked at it, the more was wrong. Not bad-nothing could take away from the skill that caught the luscious texture of skin and hair and the cloth of the woman's dress-but it was like listening to one of those computer programs that played sheet music: perfect technical skill... and no soul.

"I don't know a lot about paintings," Anna said to excuse herself.

Dana shook her head and gave Anna a rueful smile, the alien predator nowhere to be seen. "No, it's all right. My people are cursed with the love of beautiful things and no ability to create them." She dried her hands. "Not all fae, of course. But many of those of us who are most deeply steeped in magic give up creative abilities of all kinds. Ah well."

"Dragons are like that," Charles said obscurely.

Did he know a dragon? Anna gave him an interested look. He smiled a little, but his attention was on the fae, who had stopped her scrubbing.

"Dragons can't create either?"

He shrugged. "So my da says. Mostly he only says things he knows to be true."

She smiled, and it was as if the sun came out. "To be like dragons is not such a bad thing. I've only seen the one-out exploring, he said, I think. We didn't have much of a conversation, but he was... like the Vermeer. A work of art."

He tilted his head. "Exactly."

Dana tilted her head the same way and looked at Charles, really looked at him. "You are the killing arm of the Marrok. Rude. Dangerous."

"True, enough," Charles said.

Anna found it interesting that the fae thought "rude" more notable than "dangerous."

"I was drawn to that in you," Dana told him. "I would have said that I knew you quite well. But I never knew you could also be kind." She put her hands on his shoulders and, with a grin at Anna, she kissed him on the cheek. Anna could feel the pulse of her magic as she sent it over Charles like a mantle or net. It slid off, but even Anna, who had not been the focus, could feel the fascination and lust she generated.

"There," she told Anna. "A sister could not have been more circumspect. Now didn't you say you brought something for me?"

She didn't lie. Or if she did, Anna couldn't tell-and the fae couldn't lie, could they? The magic could have been involuntary; maybe it happened every time, and the fae didn't even notice anymore.

Charles hadn't seemed affected, but it would have been difficult to tell. His face was doing its usual public thing. Not even the mate bond helped her, because the connection between them told her nothing. But it wasn't possible for a fae with magic like that to kiss him and he not feel anything, was it? Not affection, admiration, or lust? Voluntary or not, the fae's magic had been aimed at him while the merest shadow of it had brushed Anna-who had never in her life been attracted to another woman.

She touched Charles lightly on the arm. He hadn't managed to rebuild his barriers against her because she suddenly knew exactly what he felt toward Dana Shea-wariness. Not desire or fear, but wary respect-one predator to another on neutral territory maybe. And then there was Brother Wolf...

She'd heard werewolves talk as if they and the wolves they shared their skins with were one. Some werewolves had nothing more wolfish about them, even in wolf form, than a nasty temper and a need to kill things that ran from them. Other than fighting to keep her sanity in the first few months after her Change, Anna hadn't thought about it much one way or the other.

Charles sometimes talked about his wolf as if it were a separate being who shared his body: Brother Wolf.

For the first time, perhaps springing from that oddly terrifying moment outside when she'd felt everything he was-too much to be absorbed or witnessed-she could feel the wolf inside of Charles. Two distinct souls. And Brother Wolf felt her, too.

Mate, he told her, not unkindly. Get out of our head so we can deal with She-Who-Is-Not-Kin.

Not-Kin wasn't the only thing she got from that name. Powerful, ruthless, killer. Bound by rules. Overcivilized. Respected enemy. Brother Wolf's voice was clearer in her head than even the Marrok's. And the Marrok spoke in words-Brother Wolf wasn't hampered by anything so human.

Anna pulled her hand away from Charles as if he'd burned her, and stared at her fingers. Charles's shoulder bumped her with silent reassurance, a casual gesture the fae woman probably hadn't noticed. Or was too polite to comment on.

Later, murmured Brother Wolf quietly, then she was alone in her head. Alone with the remnants of jealousy and... hurt at Brother Wolf's rejection. Knowing that she shouldn't feel either didn't help at all.

Charles took the package he'd brought and handed it to Dana.

Dana's eyebrows rose. "Butcher paper and twine?"

He shrugged. "Da gave it to me that way."

The fae shook her head and opened a drawer in a bird's-eye maple desk and pulled out a pair of delicate sterling silver scissors. Setting the package on the desktop, she cut the string and opened it.

And the alien thing Anna had glimpsed earlier was back in full measure. Dana didn't move, didn't so much as blink, but the portent of... something filled the space they were in. Every muscle, every hair on Anna's body warned her to run.

She looked at Charles. His attention was on the fae, but he wasn't alarmed. Did he not feel it? Or was he so confident that Dana's threat was something he could handle? But his calm helped Anna regain hers. She waited to see what had caused such a strong reaction.

Even before Dana had opened the package, it'd been obvious that a painting was inside. It wasn't large. Ten inches by twelve, maybe, framed in oak a couple of shades darker than the desk's maple, a waterscape of some sort.

"Da said to tell you it was what he remembered," Charles said. "That he might have gotten some of the details a little wrong, but he thought not."

"I didn't know the Marrok painted." Dana's voice was... deeper somehow. Rich and hoary with age. Her hands trembled as she touched the painting. The fae's power that Anna had felt so strongly just a few moments ago was gone as if it had never been.

"He doesn't." Charles shook his head. "But we have an artist in our pack, and he has a gift for painting other people's words-and my father is very good with words."

"I didn't know your father was ever there." The fae sounded... lost.

Charles shrugged. "You know how Da is. No one notices him unless he intends it. And he is a bard. He goes everywhere."

Dana lifted her head, and her eyes were puffy, her nose red, though no tears fell down her cheeks. She looked very human. "How did he know?"

Charles lifted both of his hands. "Who knows how my da figures out anything. He thought it would please you."

She looked at it again, and Anna couldn't tell if she was pleased or not-overcome, certainly. Shocked. "My home. It is long gone. Destroyed by magic and geology, the spring dried up centuries ago. The site it occupied is a city street that bears the name of a hundred other streets in a hundred other cities. I thought all memory of it was lost." She touched the painting the way Anna touched Charles: lightly, cautious of pain but unable to resist the draw of it.

She tipped it so they both could see it better. The side of a lake, Anna thought. A deep lake to catch the color of the sky and darken the blue to a near black. The artwork was plainer than the painting Dana had been working on, and the canvas much smaller. But in simple brushstrokes, the artist had captured an unworldly quality that made the small picture a window into a foreign place. A place that held no welcome for Anna-but somehow it matched the alien look she'd glimpsed in Dana's eyes.

"Tell your father," Dana said, returning her attention to the painting, "that I will see if I can return a gift of equal value to him. And my apologies if I don't."

"WELL," said Anna, once they were safely on their way.

"That was... unsettling."

"You didn't like her?"

She looked at him, then turned her attention back to the road. When the fae's spell had brushed her, Anna had wanted to like her, to fawn at her feet and wait for crumbs of kindness. The rest of the time she'd wanted to kill the fae for flirting with Charles-for having slept with him.

She wanted to crawl in a dark hole so that she never bothered Brother Wolf with her presence again-which she knew was stupid. He hadn't been rejecting her. Not really. But there had been such... dismissal in his admonition. His attention had been on Dana.

Dana who was fae, a Gray Lord, confident and powerful. Not a twenty-three-year-old woman with half an education who didn't even know, after three years of being one, a quarter of what she should know about being a werewolf. She was no fit match for Charles.

None of which she could talk to Charles about without sounding like a stupid twit-a complicated, high-maintenance, stupid twit. Fortunately she could answer his question without betraying what really bothered her about visiting the fae.

"In Chicago, at the Brookfield Zoo, they have a reptile house. I took a school tour of it once, when I was a kid. They have a green mamba. It's the most beautiful snake I've ever seen; not flashy, just this... indescribable shade of green-and so poisonous that if someone gets bitten by it, there's usually no time to administer antivenin."

"You think she's beautiful?" He considered it. "Interesting looking, I would say, but not beautiful. Few of the fae are beautiful with their glamour on. Beauty doesn't blend in very well. And the fae, like us, spent a long time learning to hide in plain sight."

Anna stared ahead. "She's beautiful. Distinctive. In a room of movie stars, everyone would look at her first."

He was watching her intently; she could feel it even if her eyes were busy with the traffic.

"That's dominance," he said. "Not beauty."

"No?" She passed a couple of boys in a Ferrari, and they took offense, roaring up behind her until they were so close she could tell that one of the pair should have shaved better.

"Beauty isn't always easy," she said. "Take Paganini for instance."

"That's music."

"You know what I mean."

He didn't fall into easy, agreeable conversation, and she liked the way he considered what she'd said instead of just letting her run with it.

"I've seen her without her glamour," he told her finally. "Maybe it blinded me to more subtle things. When we became lovers, I did it because I found her interesting." He was watching her reaction.

That morning she would have told him exactly how hearing him describe a former lover made her feel. But since then she'd had that little glimpse of him, raw and bare-although she'd done her best not to look. No one should stand completely naked before another person. But she'd noticed something... unexpected. She knew who she was-and she knew who he was. It wasn't that she didn't value herself; she did. But Charles was... a force of nature.

And he worried that she might not ever be able to see who he was and love him-because he looked in the mirror and saw only the killer. It was the reason he kept the bond between them tightened down. He loved her beyond all reason and didn't expect her to love him back. He was just waiting for her to wise up.

She felt terrified-as if she had been given a delicate and valuable glass ornament, and any wrong move would break it. She felt as though it should have been given to stronger, more capable hands so it would not be harmed. Not that she hadn't staked out her claim in front of Dana quickly enough.

When Anna didn't say anything, he continued. "She took me as her lover because, once she knew her ability to make anyone lust after her didn't work on me, she was curious what sex would be like without bespelling her partner."

Anna snorted. "I'm sure the packaging didn't bother her much either."

Charles sighed. "I did this wrong, didn't I? I owe you an apology."

She glanced at him.

"I didn't mean to bog this down in ancient history-but I didn't stop her doing so soon enough either. And then... words are not always my best means of communication. Let me make things clear: there was nothing between us except mutual appreciation-and that a century ago or more."

"It's all right," she told him. "I understand." Humor, she thought, it has to be just right. Dry humor. "You've had a very long time to acquire former lovers I can blame you for."

A warm hand closed over her knee, and a warm, wordless voice curled around her even as Charles said, "I liked it today, when you claimed me in front of her." He hesitated. "I think it hurt my feelings that you were able to talk about her without being jealous."

She took her right hand off the wheel and ran her hand down his arm. "You need to check your nose, Kemo Sabe." If he could be honest, so could she. "I don't like you talking about her. I wanted to rip her face off when she kissed you. And when Brother Wolf pushed me out-"

"He didn't mean it that way." Charles's free hand tapped on the door frame. "He's not... not capable of subterfuge, not even to make things easier. He's very straightforward."

The boys in the Ferrari were still on her tail, and she tapped her brakes once in warning.

"Well," she said. Straightforward. "I suppose that explains it all." But it didn't bother her anymore. It wasn't Charles's explanation that soothed her, it was the way she'd felt Brother Wolf's straightforward agreement with Charles's pleasure in the way she'd faced up to Dana and claimed him at the fae's boat. She couldn't read everything. Not much from Charles at all now-but Brother Wolf, it seemed, was willing to be more forthcoming.

"You two have a great deal more in common than sharing the same body," she said.

Charles started to laugh and slid down in his seat. "I suppose we do, for good or for ill, eh? He doesn't like the fae, not even Dana. And he... we are still adjusting to having you. We protect our pack, that's what our job has always been. Especially the submissives who are our heart."

"And he... you feel me as an uber-submissive," she said. What she was, was Omega, not submissive at all. But she served somewhat the same purpose in the pack. The dominant wolves could... relax around her because they knew that she would never challenge them-not because she couldn't, but because she wouldn't. Omegas didn't care about pack position, they just cared about the pack.

"You are ours," he said unequivocally, humor gone. "Brother Wolf's and mine. Ours to be kept safe. Dana is many things, but safe isn't one of them. You were distracting us-and if we'd talked to you too long, she'd have sensed it and been offended. It is not difficult to offend most fae, and Dana is not an exception."

"Her reaction to the painting Bran sent her was odd," Anna said.

"Powerful," agreed Charles. "But it would not have done to give her a gift that was less than the gifts others will bring her during this conference. Staying on the right side of the fae is an interesting dance, and I'll leave it to my father to know exactly how to step."

"The Vermeer... Why did she copy it instead of painting something of her own?"

"Her own paintings... are worse. Do you remember the sad clown paintings? Or are you too young? They were everywhere for a while. Bright-colored and flat-feeling. Empty."

Anna shivered. "My dentist had them all over his office."

"Like that," Charles said.

"Maybe she should paint scenery," Anna suggested.

"The background of the Vermeer was very well done."

"I suggested that once, but she wasn't interested. She wants to paint the kinds of subjects she likes to view-lovers and dreamers."

"Do you think the pack has good auto insurance?" Anna asked, looking in the rearview mirror again.

Charles glanced behind them and narrowed his eyes.

The Ferrari suddenly dropped back.

"Jeez," Anna said. "You are handy to have around."

"Thank you."

Anna thought of Dana as she weaved her way through the traffic, her opinion more charitable than she'd been able to manage earlier.

What would it feel like to love music as she did and not be able to sing or play? Or worse, to be proficient but never cross the line between a collection of notes and pitch and rhythm to real music? To know that you were missing it by just a hair but have no idea how to take it from metronome correctness to power and true beauty.

She'd known a few people like that in school. Some of them had made the transition, some of them hadn't.

At Northwestern, before her Change had forced her to drop out, she'd been a music major. Her primary instrument had been the cello.

The first violin in the quartet she'd played in at school had been a precise master of technique who was so good he fooled the professors into thinking he was playing music. A regular wunderkind.

She'd thought he was oblivious to it until one night, after a performance, when they'd all gone out to a local bar and toasted the concert in beer and ale. The others were dancing, but she'd stayed at the table with him, worried about the serious way he was attempting to drink the pub dry when it had been his more usual habit to declare himself the designated driver and stick to ice tea or coffee.

"Anna," he'd said, staring into the amber liquid in his cup as if it held the wisdom of the age, "I don't fool you, do I? Those others"-he waved a vague hand to indicate their missing comrades-"they think I'm all that-but you know better, don't you."

"Know what?" she'd asked.

He leaned forward, smelling of beer and cigarettes. "You know I'm a fraud. I can feel the beast inside me, screaming to get out. And if I loose it, it will pull me up to greatness despite myself."

"So why not let it free?" She hadn't been a werewolf then. The world had been a gentler place, the monsters safely in their closets, and she had been brave in her ignorance.

His eyes were old and weary, his voice slurring a bit. "Because then everyone would see," he told her.

"See what?"


To make great art, you had to expose your soul, and some things should be left safely in the dark. For a while, after she'd been forcibly Changed, Anna hadn't made music at all-and not just because she'd had to sell her cello.


She moved her grip on the steering wheel. "Just thinking about Dana and why she can't paint as she'd like to." She hesitated. "I wonder if it is because she has no soul-like some of the churches claim. Or if it's because what is inside her frightens her too much to expose it."


HE'D chosen the hotel because he wanted Anna to be comfortable. There were fancier places in downtown Seattle, glittering jewels of steel and glass.

He could afford them.

In other cities, the Marrok's company even owned a few, and they had hefty investments in some others. But he remembered how intimidated she'd been by his house only a few weeks ago, which was not extravagant or particularly large, so he thought she'd be more comfortable in this hotel, which was his favorite anyway.

Sometimes it embarrassed him. This need to show her the things he treasured in the hope that she would love them, too. He was too old to be indulging himself this way: showing off in the plane-taking her to this hotel. He'd have to tell her about the investment portfolio he'd started for her sometime. But he was an old hunter and knew better than to startle his prey. He'd wait until she was more comfortable with him, with the pack... with everything.

Anna stopped in front of the curb and he could feel her stress when the parking attendant came to take her keys from her. She hugged herself while Charles gave his name and handed the young man a tip for not looking taken aback by the battered Toyota.

He took their luggage, and, still watching Anna, who was looking down at her feet, refused help with them. She'd feel better without anyone serving them.

Maybe he should have taken her to something more impersonal? Someplace where you parked your own car and no one asked if you needed help? Maybe she was still upset by Dana's attempt to make her jealous. Or maybe she was worried about Brother Wolf.

Brother Wolf had never talked to anyone but him like that. Not even Da. Maybe it upset her? Or maybe it was the way Brother Wolf had opened them to her outside the fae's house. Had she seen something that disgusted her? Frightened her? Maybe the distance she'd put between them when they left Dana's house had nothing to do with jealousy at all.

He wasn't used to the emotional roller coaster he'd been on since he met her. It was a good thing she was an Omega, who could soothe everyone around her-and not a dominant. Brother Wolf was on edge as it was; only when she touched him or when she was happy did he have complete control.

They needed to talk, but not in public.

The hotel was older: brick instead of steel, and eleven stories, not thirty. But it was old-world upscale, decorated with a whimsy that appealed to him, the aim to delight rather than impress in a Mediterranean-influenced Art Deco style. When they walked into the lobby, Anna-who was still quiet-stopped just inside the door. She looked up, looked at the Christmas tree decorated in huge maroon, deep purple, and silver cloth bows instead of bulbs, with an even more enormous gold and deep green bow on top.

Anna smiled at him and took his arm. And he knew he'd picked right. She loved it. Brother Wolf basked in the satisfaction of pleasing their mate.

Their room was on the seventh floor, something that Brother Wolf disapproved of. He'd rather have been able to use the windows as a convenient second exit rather than a risky escape route. But Charles preferred to have a room more difficult for unexpected visitors to enter, and the wolf had conceded the point.

The elevator opened, and in front of them was a mirror to make the hall look bigger and lighter-and a goldfish in a clear bowl on a little table.

"A goldfish?" she asked.

"Tough creatures, goldfish," he said.

She laughed. "No argument. I knew someone who rescued a goldfish from a frat house where it had been living in a bowl of beer. But why goldfish at a hotel?"

He shrugged. "I've never asked anyone. Though if you come by yourself, they put a goldfish in your room for company." He didn't tell her that this was the only time he'd ever been here that he wouldn't have a goldfish in his room.

He'd been alone a long time, despite the pack, despite the lovers he'd taken and who'd taken him. He'd had to be because he was, as Dana said, his father's killing arm. He'd had to be alone: acquaintances were easier to kill than friends.

And now he wasn't. He loved it, he reveled in it-though he was sometimes halfway convinced that the bond between them would be his death. For her sake, he would destroy the world.

Probably it wouldn't come to that.

He opened the room and waited at the door while she explored her new territory.

She wandered through it, touching the table and the couch in the sitting room. She tugged lightly at a tassel on the tapestry drapes that separated the bedroom from the rest.

"It looks like a set from The Sheik," Anna said. "Complete with striped wallpaper to look like tent sides and the fabric divider. Cool."

She sat on the bed and groaned. "I could get used to this." Then she turned her warm brown eyes to his, and said, "I think we have to talk."

That he agreed with her didn't stop the cold churning in his stomach. Talk was not his specialty.

She scooted back and sat with her legs crossed on the far side of the bed, patting the mattress beside her.

"I won't bite," she said.


Anna grinned at him, and suddenly all was right with his world-yes, he had it bad.

"Or at least I'll make sure you enjoy it if I do."

Charles left their baggage in front of the bathroom, blocking the door to the hall, and Brother Wolf didn't even object to the obstruction between them and escape. The warmth in her drew him like a fire in winter, and there was no escape for him or his brother in flesh. And neither of them cared.

He stripped off his leather jacket and dropped it on the floor. Then he sat down on the bed and pulled off his boots. He heard her tennis shoes hit the floor as he stretched out on the bed next to her without looking at her. Talk. She'd said "talk." And he'd do that best looking at the wall.

He waited for her to begin. If he started asking the questions he had, Anna might not ask him what she needed to know. It was something he'd learned a long time ago with less dominant wolves.

After a while, she flopped down on the bed beside him. He closed his eyes and let her scent surround him.

"Is this bonding thing as weird for you as it is for me?" she said in a small voice. "Sometimes it's overwhelming and I wish it would shut down, even though it hurts when it does. And when it is narrower, I miss the intimacy of knowing what you're feeling."

"Yes," Charles agreed. "I'm not used to sharing with anyone but Brother Wolf." His mate, he thought. She'd had a rough time, and she needed everything he could give her. So he used the words that he didn't trust himself with to tell her what he could. "I don't care what Brother Wolf thinks of me. You... I care. It's... difficult."

She moved until her breath touched the back of his neck. Very quietly she said, "Do you ever wish it hadn't happened?"

At that he sat up and turned to her, examining her face for hints of just how she'd meant the question. His sudden move made her flinch, and if the bed hadn't been so big, she'd have fallen off in her scramble to get away from him.

He closed his eyes and controlled himself. There were no enemies here to slay. "Never," he told her with utter sincerity he hoped she heard. "I will never regret it. If you could have seen my life before you came into it, you would not ask that question."

He felt her warmth, smelled her closeness before she touched him. "I cause you a lot of trouble. I'll probably cause you more before we're done."

Charles opened his eyes and let himself drown in her scent, in her presence, and kissed a freckle that graced Anna's cheek. Then the one on the side of her nose and another just above her lip. "For a long time, my brother Samuel has been telling me that I needed something to shake me up."

She kissed him-a rare enough occurrence that he held perfectly still and savored it for the gift of trust it was. She'd been tortured by monsters, and sometimes they still held sway over her.

Anna pulled herself away. "If this keeps up, there won't be any talk."

Good, he thought. But he knew there were things she still needed to discuss, so he lay back down and pillowed his head on his hands though there were at least three layers of pillows on the bed.

"I keep feeling like we're doing it wrong," she said. "That this bond between us is meant to be much more than we're allowing it to be."

"There is no wrong between us," he told her.

She made a frustrated noise, so he supposed that wasn't the answer she was looking for. Charles tried again. "We have time, love. As long as we are careful to set our feet on the path we want to follow, we have a very long time to get it right."

He could feel her focus her attention on him. "Okay," she said finally. "I can live with that. Does that mean I get to tell you when I think you're walking in the wrong direction?"

He grinned. "Could you help yourself?"

"There is no wrong between us," she repeated his words with more satisfaction. "That means yes, right?"

He looked at her again, "That means yes. Right."

"And you are as confused about this as I am?"

It seemed important to her that they were on equal ground. But he could not lie to her. "No. Differently confused, I think. And possibly more confused. You haven't had the better part of two hundred years to decide who you are and who you aren't. When that all changes..." Charles shrugged.

He wasn't used to all of this emotion. He'd taken the feelings and desires of his human half and stuffed them somewhere so they wouldn't interfere with the things he had to do. And now they were all back, and he had no tools to deal with them-and he wasn't stupid enough to think that they would ever allow themselves to be stuffed away again.

"Differently confused," she said. "Okay. That's okay."

She reached out and touched his arm, drawing a finger down. "When I touched you today... it feels as though you have two souls in one body. Is that how I am?"

"Anna," he told her. "You are how you are. Brother Wolf and I... You know I was born werewolf and not Changed. That has left some differences, I think. To function, most werewolves have to make their wolf obedient if not completely subservient. After a while, the wolf spirit is reduced to a part of the man's spirit. An unthinking, violent part full of instincts and desires but no true thoughts."

He looked at her pale hand on the green silk shirt he wore. "I am not my grandfather, to look into the heart of man," he told her. "I don't know that what I've told you is truth. It is just what I've seen and felt.

"Brother Wolf and I reached a different compromise. In situations where I am better able, he allows me full control-and I extend him the same courtesy."

"Two souls," she said.

"No," he shook his head. "One soul, one man, two spirits. We are one, Brother Wolf and I. Inseparable. If he died, so would I."

"Have I crippled my wolf?"

He rolled on his side, drawn closer to her by her concern. "It isn't something to be mourned. It is simply survival. But if it helps, I think you and your wolf have reached a different compromise altogether." He smiled. "I think that's why Brother Wolf chose you in the first place-before we'd had much more than a chance to say hello. We balance, you know. You to me, your wolf to mine. She's shy unless you are threatened, but she's all there."

Anna closed her hand on his arm. "Okay. I can deal with that better than the alternatives."

"Do you need any more words between us?" he asked, her touch making his voice go husky.

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