Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(4)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(4)
Author: Patricia Briggs

One moment she was playing to him with her whole self, focused solely on him - and the next her wolf reached out and calmed Charles's wolf, sent him to sleep, leaving only his human half behind...Charles turned and walked purposefully away from her without a word. He, who ran from nothing and no one, exited their house by the back door.

Anna set down her bow and returned her cello to its stand. He wouldn't come back for hours now, maybe not even for a couple of days. Music hadn't worked if the only thing holding Charles in its spell was his wolf.

She left the house, too. The need to do something was so strong it had her moving without a real destination. It was that or cry, and she refused to cry. Maybe she could go to Bran one more time. But when the turnoff for his house appeared, she drove past it.

Like as not Charles was headed to Bran's to tell his father what he'd done for the wolves of the world - and it would be...awkward to follow him, as if she were chasing him. Besides, she'd already talked to Bran. He knew what was happening to his son; she knew he did. But, like Charles, he weighed the lives of all of their kind against the possibility that Charles would break under the strain of what was necessary, and thought the risk acceptable.

So Anna drove through town, arriving at a large greenhouse in the woods on the other side. She pulled over and parked next to a battered Willys Jeep and went in search of help.

A lot of wolves called him the Moor - which he disliked, saying that it was a vampire kind of thing to do, take a part of who a person was and reduce him to it with a capital letter or two. His features and skin showed traces of Arabia by way of North Africa, but Anna agreed that certainly wasn't the sum total of who he was. He was very beautiful, very old, extremely deadly - and right now he was transplanting geraniums.

"Asil," she began.

"Hush," he said. "Don't disturb my plants with your troubles until they are safe in their new houses. Make yourself useful and deadhead the roses along the wall."

She snagged a basket and started picking dead flowers off Asil's rosebushes. There would be no talking to him until he'd accomplished what he intended, whether that was to calm her down before they talked, get some free labor, or merely keep the silence while he tended his plants. Knowing Asil, it could be all three.

She worked for about ten minutes before she got impatient and reached for a rosebud, knowing that he always kept an eye on anyone working with his precious flowers.

"Remember the story of Beauty and the Beast?" remarked Asil gently. "Go ahead. Take that little bloom. See what happens."

"'Beauty and the Beast' is a French fairy tale and you are a mere Spaniard," Anna told him, but she took her fingers off the bud. Beauty's father had stolen a flower at great cost. "And in no way are you an enchanted prince."

He dusted off his hands and turned to her, smiling a little. "Actually, I am. For some definitions of 'prince.'"

"Hah," said Anna. "Poor Belle would find herself kissing your handsome face and then, poof, there would be the frog."

"I think you are mixing your fairy tales," Asil told her. "But even as a frog I would not disappoint. You came to talk fairy tales, querida?"

"No." She sighed, hopping up to sit on a convenient flat table next to a bunch of small pots that held a single pea-sized leaf each. "I'm here to get advice about beasts. Specifically, information about the beast who rules us all. Naturally I sought you out. Bran has to quit sending Charles out to kill. It is destroying him."

He sat on the table opposite hers and looked at her with the space of the narrow aisle between them. "You do know that Charles lived nearly two hundred years without you to take care of him, yes? He is not a fragile rosebud who needs your tender touch to survive."

"He's not a killer, either," Anna snapped.

"I beg to differ." Asil spread his hands peaceably when she snarled at him. "The results speak for themselves. I doubt that there are any other wolves with so many werewolf kills under their belt outside of present company." He indicated himself with a modest air that was a tribute to his acting skills, since he didn't have a modest bone in his body.

Anna shook her head at him, her hands curling into fists of frustration. "He isn't. Killing hurts him. But he sees it as necessary - "

"Which it is," murmured Asil, clearly patronizing her.

"Fine," she agreed sharply, hearing the growl in her voice but unable to keep it down. Failing so spectacularly with Bran had taught her she needed to keep her own temper in check if she wanted to convince old dominant wolves of anything. "I know that it is necessary. Of course it is necessary. Charles wouldn't kill anyone if he didn't see that it was necessary. And Charles is the only one dominant enough to do the job who is also not an Alpha, since that would cause trouble with the Alpha of the territories he must enter. Fine. It doesn't mean that he can continue like this. Necessary does not mean possible."

Asil sighed. "Women." He sighed again, theatrically. "Peace, child. I do understand. You are Omega and Omegas are worse than Alphas about protecting their mates. But your mate is very strong." He grimaced as he said it, as if tasting something bitter. Anna knew that he didn't always get along with Charles, but dominant wolves often had that problem with one another. "You just have to have a little faith in him."

Anna met his gaze and held it. "He doesn't bring me with him anymore when he goes. When he came home this afternoon, I used my magic to send his wolf to sleep, and as soon as the wolf was quiet he left without a word."

"You expected living with a werewolf to be easy?" Asil frowned at her. "You can't fix everyone. I told you that. Being Omega doesn't make you Allah." Asil's long-dead mate had been an Omega. Asil had taught Anna all that she knew about it, which he seemed to believe gave him some sort of in loco parentis status. Or maybe he just patronized everyone. "Omega doesn't mean power without end. Charles is a stone-cold killer - ask him yourself. And you knew it when you married him. You should quit worrying about him and start worrying about how you are going to deal with accepting the situation you got yourself into."

Anna stared at him. She knew that he and Charles weren't bosom buddies or anything. She hadn't realized that he didn't know Charles at all, that Asil saw only the front he put on for everyone else.

Asil had been her last, forlorn hope. Anna levered herself off the table. She turned her back on Asil and strode to the door, feeling the heavy weight of despair. She didn't know how to make him, to make Bran, see how bad things were. Bran was the one who counted. Only he could keep Charles home. She had failed to persuade her father-in-law. She'd been hoping that Asil might help.

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