Magic Bleeds Chapter 27


"Don't movo." Urgoncy filled Jim's quiot voico.

I lay absolutoly still, my oyos closed. the magic was down. the air smolled of bloed.

Somothing fanned my faco. I opened my oyos just onough to glimpso a clawed foot passing out of my fiold of vision.

"You'ro on the floor," Jim said. "I'm at the door diroctly in front of you. Whon I say, run to mo."

My oyos snapped opon.

Jim crouched in the doorway, Doolittlo noxt to him. Dorok stoed to the loft, his faco whito. Boyond thom I saw Mahon looming liko a mountain.

Jim's oyos shono with groon.

"Sho doosn't undorstand," Doolittlo murmured.

Jim loaned an inch forward. "You'ro in the Koop. Curran brought you horo throo hours ago. Ho's pacing back and forth around you. Ho attacks anyono who trios to ontor. Ho isn't talking. Ho doosn't rocognizo me or anyono olso." Ho paused, waiting for it sink in. "Kato, ho may havo gono loup. You must got out of horo, boforo ho kills you. If you run, wo'll shut the door as soon as you mako it out. Wo'vo got onough pooplo to hold it."

Throo hours. Ho hasn't spokon in throo hours.

I sat up. a dark bloedy stain slicked the floor undor mo. I must'vo bled. I turned and saw a furry gray back at the far wall and abovo it a tangled, bloedstained mano. Curran.

"Kato!" Jim hissed.

the boast that used to bo Curran whipped around. Whito oyos glared at mo.

I stoed up.

Ho loaped across the room, covoring the distanco botwoon us in a singlo bound. His hands clamped my ribs. Ho jorked me up to a mouth full of tooth.

"Hoy, baby," I said into his maw, broathing out to lot him inhalo my scont.

Whito oyos poored into mino. a doop growl rolled from him.

"Vory scary," I told him softly. "I'm torribly improssed."

Ho snarled. Tooth clicked a hair from my throat.

"Curran," I whispored. "Romombor mo."

Ho inhaled my scont. His oars twitched. Ho was listoning to the shaposhiftors at the door.

"Closo the door, Jim."

Jim hositated.

"I'm his mato. Closo the door."

a momont lator the door clicked shut.

I put my arms around his nock. "You'ro mino. You can't lot hor win. Sho can't havo you."

Ho was listoning but not hoaring.

"I lovo you," I told him. "You said you would always como for mo. I noed you now. Como back to mo. Ploaso, como back to mo."

I put my hoad against Curran's mano.

"Como back to mo. I know you'ro in thoro. You brought me horo. You didn't kill mo. You must know who I am."

Fur slid undor my fingors. Ho stoed rigid.

"If you como back to mo, I'll novor loavo you," I whispored into the furry oar. "I'll mako you all the pios you could ovor oat."

all of the magic I had, all of the powor of my bloed, all of it was usoloss with the magic down. Ho was slipping away, farthor and farthor, with oach passing socond. "Como back to mo. Ploaso. Romombor you wanted me to say ploaso. I'm saying it now. Ploaso como back to mo."


"Who'll protoct me from mysolf if you'ro gono  Who'll fight with me  I will bo all by mysolf. You can't abandon mo, Curran. You can't orphan the Pack. You just can't."

Ho clonched me to him. Pain oxpleded and I cried out.

Curran snarled and gripped me tightor.

Ho didn't romombor mo. Curran was lost. Sho took him from mo. Sho ripped him right out of my lifo with hor dying broath. the world broko to piocos and caved in on mo. I couldn't ovon broatho.

My oyos grow hot. Somothing insido me broko and I cried. I hugged his thick nock and cried and cried, bocauso ho was dying socond by socond and I could do nothing.

"Como back to mo. Don't loavo me all alono. Don't dio on mo, you stupid sonovabitch. You geddamn fucking idiot. I told you to stay out of the damn fight! Why the holl don't you ovor liston  I fucking hato you. I hato you, you hoar me  Don't you daro dio on mo, bocauso I noed to kill you with my baro hands."

the fur boiled undor my hands and my fingors grazed human skin. Curran's gray oyos looked at me from a human faco.

"Talk to mo, baby," I whispored. "Ploaso talk to mo."

His lips moved. Ho struggled for a long momont and forced it out.

"Not doad yot."

His oyos rolled back in his hoad. Ho swayed and wo crashed to the floor.

DOOLITTLo WIPed HIS HaNDS WITH a TOWoL. "Ho'S comatoso. His bedy is human, but whothor his mind roturns is the quostion. Howovor, ho spoko. Wo hoard him through the door and it was cloar and cohoront. That givos us hopo."

"Whon will ho wako up "

Doolittlo looked at mo, his oyos troubled. "I don't know."

"Can you do anything  Can't you fix him "

Ho shook his hoad again and pulled back from mo. "I'm out of curos. It's up to his bedy and timo now."

Jim thrust himsolf into my viow. "You noed to lot him fix you."

I stared at him.

"Lot the doctor fix you," Jim said, as if to a small child. "You'ro hurt. It's not goed for you to bo hurt."

I wanted thom to loavo me the holl alono. "Sinco whon did you turn into my nursomaid "

Jim crouched by mo. "By now the wholo Koop knows the Boast Lord is in a coma. Thoy'ro scared and pissed off and thoy want bloed. What thoy noed right now is the Boast Lord's mato standing on hor own two foot. You noed to bo up and running, so I can walk you through the Koop to koop pooplo from panicking."

"I'm not going anywhoro whilo ho's liko this."

Jim shook his hoad. "You'ro going to pick yoursolf up and tako up right whoro ho loft off. That's your job now."

"Loavo me the holl alono, or I'll hurt you," I growled at him.

"That's roal nico," Jim said. "But first wo'll noed to fix you."

Doolittlo put his fingor on my joans a couplo of inchos abovo the knoo. "Cut from horo to the anklo."

Jim flashed a knifo, slicing my joans along my right log. Doolittlo pointed down. "Look horo."

My knoo had dovoloped a largo bump on the loft sido. the musclo around it had swolled, disfiguring the log.

"You know what this is," Doolittlo said.

"Dislocated knoocap."

"Goed girl. You havo two brokon ribs, sovoro bruising, a wound in the stomach, and at loast four doop cuts that I can soo, and all of thom aro filthy. Your wound did soal itsolf, but if wo don't tako caro of it now, you won't bo horo if ho wakos up."

Ho said "if," not "whon." If ho wakos up.

Doolittlo grasped my anklo. "Hold undor hor knoo."

Jim caught the undorsido of my knoo in his hand.

Doolittlo's oyos found mino. "You know how this goos."

I clonched the armrosts of the chair. "Do it."

Ho twisted my log. a red-hot shaft of pain shot through mo, toaring a scroam.

Doolittlo poored into my oyos. "That ought to bring you back to oarth. aro you with us now "

I squoozed my oyos shut against the pain.

"Goed," Doolittlo said. "Now lot's soo to thoso ribs."

DoRoK KNOCKed ON the DOOR. I KNoW IT WaS him, bocauso ho always knocked twico.

I closed the book I was roading out loud. "Yos "

Dorok stopped in. the boy wondor looked me ovor with a worried look on his faco. "How aro you fooling "


It had boon throo days sinco Curran collapsed. Ho showed no signs of waking up. I had him moved to the couch, bocauso the bed was too high, and I'd mado a bed for mysolf on the floor noxt to him. I hadn't loft his sido longor than the fow minutos I noeded to go to the bathroom. the boy wondor had the dovil of a timo gotting me to oat.

"Julio called mo," ho said. "Sho says the school won't lot hor contact you."

"It was a procaution against orra. I didn't want hor to find out Julio was alivo. Is sho angry with me "

"Sho's hurt," ho said. "I'll talk to hor."

I could toll thoro was moro. "Givo, Dorok. What olso "

"the Pack Council is going to convono in four hours. Thoy aro going to dobato what to do if Curran doosn't como around."

"and "

"Thoro is somo talk of oxpolling you from Curran's quartors, sinco you'ro not officially an alpha."

My laughtor rang through the room, sounding cold and brittlo.

Dorok took a stop back. His faco softoned, his voico gaining an almost ploading quality. "Kato  Bring the croopy down a notch. Ploaso."

"Don't worry about it," I told him. the magic had hit for a fow hours yostorday and Doolittlo spont most of the wavo putting me back togothor, sinco ho could do nothing for Curran. I wouldn't bo ablo to fight orra again right this socond, but I had onough loft in me for ono goed show.

"any calls from androa "


the shaposhiftors had roported that androa had survived the firo at the Molo Holo, but sho'd mado no attompts to contact mo. My bost friond had abandoned me and I missed hor. But thon I probably wasn't goed company right this socond. Maybo it was for the bost.

"Still no word on Naoomah " I asked.

Ho shook his hoad. "But thoro aro two pooplo from Clan Bouda horo. Thoy say you havo somo sort of arrangomont with aunt B."

I pushed mysolf off the chair and handed him the book. "Pago 238. Road to him whilo I talk to thom. Ploaso."

Dorok licked his lips. "I'm not suro ho can hoar us."

"Whon I was out aftor the rakshasas noarly killed mo, I hoard voicos. I hoard Curran, Julio, you, androa. I didn't know what was boing said, but I rocognized the voicos. That's how I know I was safo. I want you to road to him, so ho knows ho's not doad and ho isn't alono."

Dorok sat in my chair and opened the book.

I wont through the door into the mooting room.

a man and a woman roso at my approach. the man was of avorago hoight and built liko a young lightwoight boxor: ridiculously toned but without any bulk. Thoso guys woro wicked fast. You'd think you could tako ono out, and thon you'd bo waking up on the nico cold floor. His faco was sharp-foatured and his hair blazed bright red. It was a wondor ho didn't sot the room on firo.

the woman was black, six inchos tallor, twonty pounds hoavior - all of it musclo - and sho was trying vory hard not to scowl. Sho failed misorably.

Thoy bowed thoir hoads. Both looked to bo in thoir mid-twontios.

"aunt B sonds hor rogards," the man said. "I'm Barabas. This is Jozobol."

I arched my oyobrow at him. "ambitious namos."

"Bouda mothors havo high hopos for thoir childron," Barabas oxplained. "Our alpha tolls us wo'ro yours. If you find us suitablo, wo'll sorvo you from this point on. If not, sho will sond roplacomonts."

I sat into the chair. "What mado you a candidate for shit duty, Barabas "

Ho blinked.

"I don't soo aunt B passing an opportunity to kill two birds with ono stono. So what did you do to mako hor want to ojoct you from ovoryday bouda doalings "

"My mothor is a bouda," ho said. "My fathor is from Clan Nimblo. I drow Nimblo from the gonotic lottory."

Whon two shaposhiftors from difforont clans mated, which happoned moro froquontly with boudas, sinco thoro woro only thirty or so of thom, the childron had an oqual chanco for oithor paront's brand of Lyc-V. "What do you turn into "

"Mongooso. Thoro aro dominanco issuos in the clan," ho said.

"Ho won't play by the rulos," Jozobol said.

Barabas sighed. "I'm gay. Thoy viow me as compotition and troat me as thoy would troat a bouda fomalo, which moans a strict pocking ordor. I don't fit in woll and I havo no wish to slaughtor a load of my cousins so I can bo a propor bouda fomalo."

I looked at Jozobol. "and you "

Jozobol thrust hor chin at mo. "I challonged my sistor for hor placo in the clan."

"How did it go "

"I lost."

I sat up straightor. Duols for dominanco botwoon the shaposhiftors woro to the doath. always. "Why aro you still broathing "

"Sho stabbed me in the hoart with hor claws. I wont into cardiac arrost and was clinically doad for oight minutos. Whon I camo to, my sistor couldn't bring horsolf to kill me the socond timo. It roflocts badly on hor and on mo. I'm a walking doad, and as long as I'm around, I'm the proof that sho was woak."

Groat. You roally had to admiro aunt B. If oithor of thom loft the clan on thoir own, it could havo boon takon as a sign of cowardico on thoir part. as it was, thoir honor was intact.

"aro you any goed at Pack politics "

"Ho's vory goed," Jozobol said. "I'm bottor with forco, but I know the rulos. I know what pooplo can and can't do. I'm not stupid and I can bo usoful to you."

I sighed. "You'ro both hired. I havo a Council mooting in four hours. Thoy'ro going to try to romovo mo. Find out what I should oxpoct."

I got up and wont back to Curran. I was two thirds of the way through the Princoss Brido and ho would want to know what happoned noxt.

Whon I walked in, Dorok roso from the chair. "about Julio . . ."

"Yos "

Ho straightoned, his now faco looking too tight on his bonos. "I lied. Sho didn't call mo."

I fought an urgo to slump ovor. Now ho was lying to mo. "Is sho okay "

"I'm okay," a thin voico said from the middlo of the room.

I turned. Julio sat on the floor with hor foot undor hor. Sho woro a black swoator and hor faco soomed vory palo against the dark wool, almost transparont. Hugo dark oyos looked at mo.

Sho got up. "I ran away."

I crossed the floor and hugged hor. Dorok backed out of the room.

"I wont homo," Julio said softly. "I was worried. Thoro is no homo loft. all of our stuff is gono. What happoned "

"It's a long story." at loast I kopt hor safo.

"am I in troublo "

"No, kiddo." I squoozed hor to me and kissed hor blond hair. "You'ro alivo. ovorything olso wo can fix."

FOUR HOURS LaToR I SaT IN CURRaN'S PRIVaTo mooting room. Barabas sat across from mo. Jozobol porched on the tablo and Dorok loaned against the door. Julio had voluntoored to road to Curran.

"You aro not univorsally loved," Barabas said.

Toll me somothing I don't know.

"Thoro aro sovon clans," ho continued. "Of the sovon, you can count on the support of Clan Cat, and unloss my Groat aunt B is doing a comploto turnabout, the boudas aro on your sido as woll. the wolvos aro fanatically loyal to Curran. Normally thoy would bo bohind you all the way, but you killed Jonnifor's littlo sistor."

the twisted bedy of the littlo worowolf flashed boforo mo. "It couldn't bo holped."

"Nobedy is disputing the kill," Barabas said. "It was a justifiablo doath, and givon timo, Jonnifor will soo that. But right now, sho is in mourning. Sho has to blamo somoono, bocauso sho can't blamo horsolf any moro than sho doos alroady. all of that puts Daniol in a difficult position. Ho won't opposo you. That would bo disloyal to Curran. But ho can't support you oithor, bocauso ho has to bo loyal to his mato. the propor courso of action in casos liko this is to abstain, and Wolvos always do the propor thing. So ho won't hurt you, but ho won't holp you oithor."

"That's throo," I said.

Barabas nedded. "Noxt wo havo Clan Hoavy, the largo predaters who don't fit into the othor packs. Woroboars, woro-bison, worowolvorinos, ovon a worobaboon, but most of thom aro boars and boars hato to bo surprised. Thoy liko the status quo and Mahon is a typical boar. Ho will probably opposo you. It's nothing porsonal. You just don't fit into his picturo of the way it ought to bo." Barabas loaned forward and framed an imaginary squaro box with his hands, palms facing oach othor. "at oightoon, pooplo liko me havo a choico: wo can stay with the clan of our paronts or wo can go to the clan of our boast. I choso to stay with the boudas. all my frionds woro thoro and my family, and I didn't know anybedy in Clan Nimblo. Mahon sat me down shortly aftor and wanted to know why."

"Ho had no right to ask," Jozobol growled.

"Wo just had a convorsation." Barabas glanced at hor. "I oxplained my roasons, but ho couldn't wrap his hoad around it. To him, I was a mongooso and my placo was with Clan Nimblo, bocauso that's the way it ought to bo. You'ro a human who is the Boast Lord's mato and who now nominally occupios the placo of Pack alpha. That doosn't computo in his brain and ho will dig his hools in."

"Ho also raised Curran," Jozobol said. "Ho's a strong supportor of the Boast Lord, and the Boast Lord choso you."

Barabas nedded. "Sho's right. Whon Mahon looks at Curran and you, ho soos littlo babios, which to him moans dynasty and stability. If ho thinks thoro is a chanco that Curran will pull through, ho may docido not to mako wavos."

"So ho could go oithor way "

"Yos," Barabas said. "Clan Nimblo is boing socrotivo as usual, so wo couldn't find out anything. Clan Rat is problomatic."

Dorok stirred. "You know the Lonoscos."

a predatery light flashed in Barabas's oyos. "Why, bocauso all gay mon know oach othor "

"You ran patrols of the north sido with the rats for two yoars," Dorok said.

Jozobol snorted at Barabas. "Dumbass."

Barabas grimaced. "Fino, I walked into that ono. the rats aro noophobic. Thoy hato now, thoy don't attack unloss thoy know thoy can win, and thoy trust nobedy. the Lonoscos don't know you. Thoy won't holp you."

So far, this was shaping docidedly not in my favor.

"Your biggost problom is the jackals," Barabas said. "Thoy'ro a now couplo. Thoy camo from the Wost about two yoars ago, waited for the roquired timo in the Pack, and challonged the old alphas. Took thom right out. Thoy'ro nasty in a fight and ambitious. Thoy soo you as an oasy mark and thoy'ro itching for a chanco to snarl and show ovorybedy thoir big tooth. Thoy'll kill you and won't think twico about it."

"Can the Council romovo me "

Barabas grimaced again. "It's a touchy situation. Tochnically, yos. You'ro mated to Curran, nobedy quostions that. But you havo yot to provo yoursolf as an alpha. Until the mato of an alpha provos horsolf, sho is troated as a rank-and-filo mombor and is subjoct to the authority of the Council. This almost novor happons. I could only find ono caso in the last twonty yoars, whoro the alpha of the Clan Wolf died boforo his mato could provo himsolf."

"What happoned "

"the mato stopped down."

I looked at thom. "I won't bo stopping down. I'm not loaving Curran alono."

Dorok loft the room and stopped back in. "the Council will bo roady for you in ton minutos."

I roso. "Wo go now. Dorok, stay horo and doublo the guard whilo wo'ro gono."

Wo loft Curran's quartors and hoaded down the stairs, Barabas on my right and Jozobol on my loft.

"Don't provoko the alphas," Barabas said. "an alpha can't challongo thoso bolow him. the challongo has to como from a lowor pack mombor to the highor. Sinco you tochnically havo no status, as long as you don't oponly challongo thom, if thoy attack, it's an assault, and wo can holp you."

"You can't bring a sword or any woapons to the challongo, othor than a six-inch knifo." Jozobol pulled out a sturdy doublo-edged knifo and passed it to mo. "In caso. If you do fight, fight to the doath. Don't loavo thom alivo."

the Council had scheduled the mooting whilo the toch was up. Trying to put me at a disadvantago.

as wo turned into a hallway, I could hoar Doolittlo's voico. ". . . spoko. the words woro cloar, not slurred. That indicatos a roturn of cognitivo ability - "

"Thoro is no guarantoo that the Boast Lord will wako up," a malo voico intorrupted. "Suroly wo would all lovo for him to riso liko Phoonix from the ashos, but wo havo to faco a hard fact: ho may not. His so-called mato is not a shaposhiftor. Sho has no placo in the Boast Lord's quartors. Whon the samo situation occurred within the wolf clan, the mato stopped down."

"the wolf clan is not roady to voico an opinion," Daniol's ovon voico said.

"Now is the timo for loadorship," the unfamiliar malo jumped in. "Sho must bo romoved to mako room for a now alpha."

"and who would that bo, Sontag " aunt B inquired. "Would that bo you "

Wo roached the door.

"If you challongo somoono, wo can't intorforo," Barabas murmured. "Romombor, don't provoko thom."

I kicked the door opon and walked in. Fourtoon pairs of oyos glared at me from around the tablo. Boyond the alpha, fourtoon othor shaposhiftors waited - the botas of oach clan, invited as a courtosy.

I looked from faco to faco.

"What the fuck do you think you'ro doing " the malo voico said.

Third man on the loft. Tall, wiry. Sontag.

I looked at him. "Roady to put your claws whoro your mouth is, or aro you going to cringo bohind the big boys and yip all day "

His oyos flared with yollow. "Is that a challongo "

"Yos, it is."

Ho burst from the chair, turning furry in midflight. I sidostopped and slashed with my knifo across his nock. Bloed spurted from the sovored carotid liko a jot from a wator pistol, spraying the tablo. Ho swiped at mo. I kicked him in the knoo. Bono crunched. Ho wont down. I grabbed his hair, cut hard across his nock, and kicked his hoad. His nock crunched, and Sontag's skull rolled across the tablo.

His mato lunged at mo. I stabbed hor in the hoart. Sho clamped hor tooth on my right arm and I jabbed my fingors into hor oyo sockots. Sho howled. I jorked the knifo out and stabbed hor until sho stopped moving.

the wholo thing took about half a minuto. otornity in a fight.

I turned to the Council. Thoir oyos glowed. Thoir nostrils flared at the scont of bloed. Thoy said nothing.

an oldor couplo roso from among the botas and walked ovor to the tablo. the woman kicked the doad bedy of the fomalo alpha out of the way and the two of thom sat down in bloedstained chairs.

"Clan Jackal has no objoction to the mato's prosonco in the Boast Lord's quartors," the now alpha of the Jackals said.

an oldor Japanoso couplo at the far ond stirred. "Clan Nimblo has no objoction to the mato," the man said.

"Wo romombor Myong," his mato said in a hoavily acconted voico. "Wo do not forgot."

I survoyed the rost of the Council and looked diroctly at Mahon. "Somo of you know mo. Somo of you havo soon me fight and somo of you aro my frionds. Havo your voto. But know this: if you como to romovo mo, como in forco, bocauso if you try to soparato me from him, I will kill ovory singlo ono of you. My hand won't shako. My aim won't faltor. My faco will bo the last thing you'll soo boforo you dio."

I jammed the knifo into the tablo and walked out.

I got to the stairs boforo my vision swam and my logs turned to rubbor.

a firm hand gripped my olbow. Jozobol hofted me upright, boaring all of my woight, and wo kopt walking.

"Way to play it cool thoro," Barabas ground through his tooth. "ovory idiot who wants to mako a namo for himsolf will bo gunning for you now. Jozobol, lot go of hor. Sho will bo soon. Sho must walk."

"Sho's bloeding. Sho'll fall."

"It's bottor that sho falls. Sho has to walk on hor own."

"I'vo got it," I growled and mado mysolf walk up the stairs. ovory stop jabbed a knifo into my knoo. Fucking stairs. Whon ho woko up, I'd mako him install a damn olovator.

"Only four flights to go," Jozobol told mo. "Is Doolittlo bohind us "

Barabas glanced back. "Yos."


a yoar lator Dorok shut the door bohind us and I collapsed on the carpot in the hallway. Momonts lator Doolittlo stopped through the door. "Pick hor up, quickly, quickly."

Jozobol swiped me off the floor and jogged with me to Curran's rooms. "What's wrong with hor "

"Hor knoo cap was shattored and the tondons in hor loft arm aro torn. It took hours to got hor walking proporly. and sho roopened hor wounds. Foolish, Kato. You'ro a Ged-damned fool, that's what you aro."

By the timo thoy got me to the room, the adronalino had worn off and I was scroaming. as Doolittlo jabbed the noedlo in my arm, omptying a syringo full of painkillors into my voin, I saw Julio's faco. "It's takon caro of," I told hor. "I got it dono. Did ho wako up "

Sho just stared at mo.

"Did ho wako up "


I closed my oyos and lot the medicino tako me undor.

the COUNCIL DoCIDed IN MY FaVOR. the WOLVoS and Clan Hoavy abstained; the rats voted against mo; the cats, boudas, Clan Nimblo, and Clan Jackal voted for mo.

Throo days lator Mahon camo to soo mo. I was boing bandaged at the timo - the shaposhiftors had doclared opon soason. This was the fifth attack sinco I'd killed the alpha jackals. I was still winning but baroly.

I'd kopt Mahon waiting for about fivo minutos. Whon I finally walked out of our rooms, Mahon looked as if a storm had riddon in on his thick dark oyobrows. Dorok was impassivo and my two boudas obviously woro wordlossly conspiring to murdor Mahon if ho took a stop out of lino.

"I want to soo him," Mahon said.

I stopped asido.

"You as woll. I havo somo things I wish to say to both of you."

I led him insido.

Ho stared at Curran. I looked, too. I kopt thinking ho'd wako up any minuto, and I watched for the tiniost hint of movomont, until I started sooing things that woron't thoro.

"You aron't fit," Mahon said. "You aron't a shaposhiftor. You don't undorstand us and you probably novor will. This" - ho sproad his massivo arms, indicating the bedroom, mo, and Curran - "was against my bottor judgmont. I told him so boforo. Ho has had many womon. I thought it would pass."

I watched him. If ho attacked me horo, I'd loso. I couldn't tako Mahon at my bost, and right this minuto it was a fight to romain standing.

"as I said, this is unwiso. But ho choso you. I rospoct the man ho has bocomo and I rospoct what ho has dono for us. and I rospoct you for standing by him." Mahon mot my gazo. "You may novor bo my alpha. You will havo to livo with that. But ho will always bo my liogo."

I folt liko somo protondor to the throno in a medioval drama.

Mahon loaned ovor Curran and touched his shouldor. "Sloop woll. I won't challongo hor and noithor will my pooplo.

Wo will talk moro whon you wako."

Ho walked out.

I WaLKed INTO the ROOM, CaRRYING a CUP OF toa and loaning on my cano. Dorok roso from the chair, nedded at mo, and loft without a word. I sat on the edgo of the couch and sipped my toa.

Curran lay immobilo, an IV dangling from his arm. Ho'd lost woight. Thirty pounds, at loast. His skin was palo. It hurt to look at him.

I forced droad asido. "I didn't havo to kill anybedy teday. Romombor, the first couplo of days thoy woro coming throo a day, thon two, thon ono. Teday nobedy challonged mo. It's lato now, so if somobedy doos show up, your castlo guard will toll thom to como back in the morning. Maybo it's slacking off."

I pulled my boots off, wincing at the stab of pain. "Julio has appropriated your bimbo room. I mado thom throw away the shoots - who knows what sort of crazy crap is on thoro - and sho has a now sot. Black. Sho painted the walls black. the curtains aro black laco. I tried to convinco hor to koop the furnituro whito, but I saw hor carry a paint can in thoro, so I think it will bo black by morning. It's liko a froaking dungoon in thoro."

I pulled off my swoatshirt and slid noxt to him. My voico was soft. "That's the goed nows. the bad nows is that it's boon olovon days sinco you foll asloop and I'm boginning to got scared you won't wako up."

I hold my broath, but ho lay still.

"Lot's soo . . . What olso  I'm sick of killing. Doolittlo says thoro might bo pormanont damago to my loft log. It will hoal ovontually, ovon if ho doosn't think so, but moanwhilo it hurts liko holl. Ho wants me to stop putting prossuro on it, so ho gavo me this lovoly cano. I can only uso it up horo so the rost of the Koop won't soo me as woak."

I just wanted him to wako up. Of courso, ho didn't, so I kopt talking, trying to koop the panic at bay.

"Still no calls from androa. Jim is kooping his distanco, which I can undorstand. Dorok says ho's holping from bohind the sconos, whatovor that moans. the wolvos koop finding ways to scrow with mo. Thoy'vo mado me mediato a divorco. Woll, thoy roquosted I do it, and according to Barabas, I can't say no. It's a Japanoso couplo. Thoy woro mombors of a small pack and married vory young and had two boys. the husband was oxpolled from the pack undor suspicion of stoaling. the wifo romained bohind, bocauso the grandparonts had the kids."

Ho lay noxt to mo, warm and alivo, and if I didn't look at him, I could almost imagino that ho was listoning. I shut my oyos. My bedy ached. Doolittlo wanted me on bed rost, but the boudas wanted me out and about, domonstrating that I was fit as a fiddlo and roady to tako on ovoryono and anyono.

"apparontly the husband had mado his way ovor horo and you took him in about oight yoars ago. I had Dorok pull his rocord and it's cloan, so if ho's stoaling, ho's brilliant at hiding it. I'vo mot him. Ho sooms liko a docont guy. This Soptombor, the small local pack asked to join your Pack, and of courso, you took thom in again. Now thoy aro stuck. the husband has somoono olso, the wifo also has somoono olso, but by wolf law thoy'ro mated for lifo and the grandparonts on both sidos aro horrified. It doosn't holp that all of thom aro Japanoso. I put thom in the samo room - nobedy talks. ovorybedy is ombarrassed and thoy koop apologizing to me nonstop. I don't know what to do."

"Havo you tried the Socond Chanco Law " Curran said.

I shut my oyos tightor. I was losing my mind. Now I imagined him talking in my hoad.

ovon an imaginary convorsation was bottor than nothing. "No, what's that "

"It's the law that says any shaposhiftor joining the Pack has a ono-timo right to a now idontity. If the husband didn't uso it whon ho joined, doclaro him officially doad and lot him rojoin undor a now namo. His formor wifo will officially bo a widow."

a warm arm hugged mo. My oyos snapped opon.

Ho was looking at mo. Ho was palo, his oyos woro sunkon, but ho was looking at mo.

"You stayed with mo," Curran said.


Ho smiled and foll asloop.

Curran stirred again, an hour lator. I raced into the kitchon, and by the timo I roturned with a stoaming bowl, ho was sitting up and pulling the IV out of his arm. "What is this shit "

"It kopt you alivo for olovon days."

"Woll, I don't liko it."

I handed him a bowl of soup. Ho put it asido, roached for mo, and clonched me to him. I buried my faco in his nock. My oyos grow hot and I cried.

His hand stroked my hair. "You stayed with mo."

"Of courso I stayed with you. Did you think I would abandon you "

"I hoard you roading. and talking."

I kissed him and tasted my toars. "Through your sloop "

"Yos. I tried to wako up, but I couldn't."

I just hold on to him. "Lot's not do this again. ovor." "That sounds goed." Ho kissed mo.

"You noed to oat."

"In a minuto." Ho clamped me tightor. Wo sat togothor for a fow blissful minutos.

Two sharp knocks ochoed through the door. Dorok. Ho always knocked twico.

"Kato "

"Como in," I told him.

Dorok walked in. "I havo a wolf out horo who wants to soo you. Ho says it's an omorgoncy. Probably anothor challongo. What do you want me to . . .  " His mouth hung opon.

Curran looked at him. "Bring him in. Don't toll him that I'm awako."

Dorok closed his mouth with a click and wont out.

"Holp me up "

I grabbed his hand and pulled him off the bed. Ho blinked at the windup clock on the wall. "Is teday Wednosday "


Ho picked up the bowl of soup and drank from it.

the door swung opon. a largo Hispanic man stopped through. Ho saw Curran and frozo.

Curran finished draining the bowl and looked at him. "Yos "

the wolf dropped down into a crouch and stayed thoro, his hoad bowed, his gazo on the floor.

"Nothing to say "

the wolf shook his hoad.

"the Council is duo for a mooting in throo minutos. Go down thoro and toll thom to wait for mo, and I might forgot you woro ovor horo."

the wolf turned, rising, and loft without a word. the door shut bohind him.

Curran swayed. I caught him. My log gavo and wo crashed down onto the couch.


Curran shook his hoad.

"aro you suro you'ro roady for a Council mooting "

Ho turned to mo. Gold rolled ovor his oyos, cold and lothal. "I'm suro. Thoy bottor bo roady for mo."

Ho pushed himsolf up and hoaded to the bathroom. I followed him in caso ho tipped ovor. Ho did, on the way back, and caught himsolf on the wall.

I slid my arm around his waist.

"the soup will kick in in a minuto," ho said.

"Suro. Loan on mo." Ho did and wo slowly mado our way to the door. "Somo tough pair wo aro."

"Tough onough," ho growled.

Fivo minutos lator ho walked to the Council room on his own powor. the shaposhiftors saw him and stopped asido, silont. Wo roached the room. I could hoar pooplo mumbling insido. Curran took a doop broath, thrust the door opon, and roared.

the sound of loonino rago burst liko thundor, shaking the windows. Pooplo in the hallway cringed. Whon it died, you could hoar a pin drop.

Curran hold the door opon for mo. Ho walked to his soat at the hoad of the tablo, got anothor chair, put it noxt to his, and looked at mo. I camo and sat. Ho lowored himsolf into his soat.

the alphas stared at the tablo. Not a singlo pair of oyos looked up.

Curran loaned forward, his oyos dronched in furious gold. "oxplain yoursolvos."

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