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On the Prowl (Alpha & Omega 0.5)(10)
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He took a bite and then paused after the first mouthful.

"I know," she told him apologetically, "it's not haute cuisine. I could go downstairs and see if Kara has any steaks or roasts I could borrow."

He went back to eating, but she knew from healing her own wounds that he'd be better off with more meat. Kara wouldn't be home, but Anna had a key, and she knew Kara wouldn't mind if she borrowed a roast as long as she replaced it.

Charles seemed to be engrossed in his meal so she started for the door. Before she was halfway there, he'd abandoned the food and stalked at her heels. It hurt him to move  -  she wasn't quite sure how she knew that, since he neither limped nor slowed visibly.

"You need to stay here," she told him. "I'll be right back."

But when she tried to open the door, he stepped in front of it.

"Charles," she said and then she saw his eyes and swallowed hard. There was nothing of Charles left in the wolf's yellow gaze.

Leaving the apartment wasn't an option.

She walked back to the kitchen and stopped by the food bowl she'd left him. He stayed at the door for a moment before following her. When he had finished eating she sat down on the futon. He jumped up beside her, put his head in her lap, and closed his eyes with a heavy sigh.

He opened one eye and then closed it again. She ran her fingers through his pelt, carefully avoiding the wound.

Were they mated? She thought not. Wouldn't something like that have a more formal ceremony? She hadn't actually told him that she accepted him  -  no more than he had really asked her.

Still... she closed her eyes and let his scent flow through her and her hand closed possessively in a handful of fur. When she opened her eyes, she found herself staring into his clear gold ones.

His phone rang from somewhere underneath her. She reached down to the floor and snagged the remnant of his pants and pulled the phone out and checked the number. She turned it so he could see the display.

"It says father" she told him. But evidently the wolf was still in control, because he didn't even look at the phone. "I guess you can call him back when you're back to yourself." She hoped that would be soon. Even with silver poisoning, he ought to be better in a few hours, she hoped.

The phone quit ringing for a moment. Then started again. It rang three times. Stopped. Then rang three more times. Stopped. When it rang again she answered it reluctantly.

"Hello?"

"Is he all right?"

She remembered the werewolf who had brought out a chair for Charles to sit on while the EMTs worked on him. He must have called the Marrok.

"I think so. The wound wasn't so bad, pretty much a deep cut across his shoulder blades, but the bullet was silver and he seems to be having a bad reaction to it."

There was a little pause. "Can I speak to him?"

"He's in wolf form," she told him, "but he is listening to you now." One of his ears was cocked toward the phone.

"Do you need help with Charles? His reaction to silver can be a little extreme."

"No. He's not causing any problems."

"Silver leaves Charles's wolf uncontrolled" crooned the Marrok softly. "But he's giving you no problems? Why would that be?"

She'd never met the Marrok, but she wasn't dumb. That croon was dangerous. Did he think she had something to do with Charles being shot and was now holding him prisoner somewhere? She tried to answer his question, despite the possible embarrassment.

"Um. Charles thinks that his wolf has chosen me as a mate."

"In less than one full day?" It did sound dumb when he said it that way.

"Yes." She couldn't keep the uncertainty out of her voice, though, and it bothered Charles. He rolled to his feet and growled softly.

"Charles also said I was an Omega wolf," she told his father. "That might have something to do with it as well."

Silence lengthened and she began to think that the cell phone might have dropped the connection. Then the Marrok laughed softly. "Oh, his brother is going to tease him unmercifully about this. Why don't you tell me everything that has happened. Start with picking Charles up at the airport please."

Her knuckles were white on the steering wheel, but Charles was in no mood to ease Anna's fears.

He'd tried to leave her behind. He had no desire to have Anna in the middle of the fight that was probable tonight. He didn't want her hurt  -  and he didn't want her to see him in the role that had been chosen for him so long ago.

"I know where Leo lives," she told him. "If you don't take me with you, I'll just hire a taxi and follow you. You are not going in there alone. You still smell of your wounds  -  and they'll take that as a sign of weakness."

The truth of her words had almost made him cruel. It had been on the tip of his tongue to ask her what she thought she, an Omega female, could do to help him in a fight  -  but his brother wolf had frozen his tongue. She had been wounded enough, and the wolf wouldn't allow any more. It was the only time he could ever remember that the wolf put the restraints on his human half rather than the reverse. The words would have been wrong, too. He remembered her holding that marble rolling pin. She might not be aggressive, but she had a limit to how far she could be pushed.

He found himself meekly agreeing to her company, though as they got closer to Leo's house in Naperville, his repentance hadn't been up to making him happy with her presence.

"Leo's house is on fifteen acres," she told him. "Big enough for the pack to hunt on, but we still have to be pretty quiet."

Her voice was tight. He thought she was trying to make conversation with him to keep her anxiety in check. Angry as he was, he couldn't help but come to her aid.

"It's hard to hunt in the big cities," he agreed. Then, to check her reaction because they'd never had a chance to really finish their discussion about what she was to him, he said, "I'll take you for a real hunt in Montana. You'll never want to live near a big city again. We usually hunt deer or elk, but the moose populations are up high enough that we hunt them sometimes, too. Moose are a real challenge."

"I think I'd rather stick to rabbits, if it's all the same to you," she said. "Mostly I just trail behind the hunt." She gave him a little smile. "I think I watched Bambi one too many times."

He laughed. Yes, he was going to keep her. She was giving up without a fight. A challenge, perhaps  -  he thought about her telling him that she wasn't much interested in sex  -  but not a fight. "Hunting is part of what we are. We aren't cats to prolong the kill, and the animals we hunt need thinning to keep their herds strong and healthy. But if it bothers you, you can follow behind the hunt in Montana, too. You'll still enjoy the run."

She drove up to a keypad on a post in front of a graying cedar gate and pushed in four numbers. After a pause the chain on the top of the gate began to move and the gate slid back along the wall.

He'd been here twice before. The first time had been more than a century ago and the house had been little more than a cabin. There had been fifty acres then and the Alpha had been a little Irish Catholic named Willie O'Shaughnessy who had fit in surprisingly well with his mostly German and Lutheran neighbors. The second time had been in the early twentieth century for Willie's funeral. Willie had been old, nearly as old as the Marrok. There was a madness that came sometimes to those who live too long. When the first signs of it had manifested in him, Willie had quit eating  -  a display of the willpower that had made him an Alpha. Charles remembered his father's grief at Willie's passing. They  -  Charles and his brother, Samuel  -  had been worried for months afterward that their father would decide to follow Willie.

Willie's house and lands had passed on to the next Alpha, a German werewolf who was married to O'Shaughnessy's daughter. Charles couldn't remember what had happened to that one or even his name. There had been several Alphas here after him, though, before Leo took over.

Willie and a handful of fine German stonemasons had built the house with a craftsmanship that would have been prohibitively expensive to replace now. Several of the windows were thickened on the bottom with age. He remembered when those windows had been new.

Charles hated being reminded how old he was.

Anna turned off the engine and started opening her door, but he stopped her.

"Wait a moment." A hint of unease was brushing across the senses bequeathed to him by his gifted mother, and he'd learned to pay attention. He looked at Anna and scowled  -  she was too vulnerable. If something happened to him, they'd tear her to bits.

"I need you to change," he told her. Something inside him relaxed: that was it. "If something happens to me, I want you to run like hell, get somewhere safe, then call my father and tell him to get you out of here."

She hesitated.

It was not his nature to explain himself. As a dominant wolf in his father's pack, he seldom had to. For her, though, he would make an effort.

"There is something important about you being in wolf form when we go in there." He shrugged. "I've learned to trust my instincts."

"All right."

She took a while. He had time to open his notebook and look at her list. He'd told Justin that Leo could have Isabelle and his first five. According to Anna's list, other than Isabelle, of those six only Boyd was on the list of names his father had given him. If Justin was Leo's second, then there wasn't a wolf other than Leo who was a threat to him.

The ache of his wound gave lie to that thought, so he corrected it. There were none of them who would give him a run for his money in a straightforward fight.

Anna finished her change and sat panting heavily on the driver's side seat. She was beautiful, he thought. Coal black with a dash of white over her nose. She was on the small side for a werewolf, but still much larger than a German shepherd. Her eyes were a pale, pale blue, which was strange because her human eyes were brown.

   
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