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Home > Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1)(11)

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1)(11)
Author: Patricia Briggs

"Fine," Bran said, when Charles continued to wait. Frustration made his voice sharp. "There's been a kill up in the Cabinet Wilderness. An elk hunter was torn to bits a couple of days ago, on the last day of the season. One of our contacts with the rangers told me. It'll be in the papers tomorrow. They're officially blaming it on a grizzly."

"Rogue wolf?" asked Charles.

"Maybe. Or maybe someone trying to make sure that I know that making the wolves public would be a bad idea." Anna had gone very still by his side. She was awake and listening.

Bran continued, "The Cabinet Wilderness is right in our backyard, where I'd be sure to get the message. We haven't had a rogue in Montana for fifteen or twenty years." Most of them were smart enough to stay away from the Marrok's personal territory. "The rangers also had a report a month or so ago about some monster a grad student ran into-it was within a few miles of where they found the dead hunter.

"The student said this thing just came out of the woods. It roared at him and flashed fangs and claws-everyone assumed it was a cougar, though the student was pretty hot that they'd think he wouldn't recognize a cougar. He maintained it was a monster until they wore him down into changing his story."

"Why is he still alive to tell the tale?" Charles asked, and felt Anna stiffen further. She'd misunderstood his question. So he continued, more for her sake than his father's. "If it was a rogue, it wouldn't have let him leave after seeing him like that," he clarified.

He hadn't had to kill a witness for a long time. Mostly they could rely on general disbelief in the supernatural and, in the Pacific Northwest anyway, Big Foot stories. One of the Oregon packs had made it a hobby to create Big Foot sightings ever since the damage one of their new wolves had done to a car had been attributed to Big Foot.

"The student said some crazy old man with a knife jumped out from nowhere and told him to run," said Bran. "So he did."

Charles absorbed that for a minute. "A crazy old man who happened to be there just as a werewolf decided to kill this kid? An old man wouldn't even slow a werewolf down."

"I never claimed the story made sense." His father's voice was dry. "And we're not certain that the monster was a werewolf. I hadn't paid any attention to it until the hunter was killed in the same area only a month later."

"What about that one? Are you sure the hunter was a werewolf victim?"

"My informant was Heather Morrell. She knows a grizzly kill from a werewolf."

Heather was human, but she'd been raised in Aspen Creek.

"All right," agreed Charles. "You need me to go check it out? It'll be a few days before I'm up to it." And he didn't want to leave Anna. "Can you send someone else?" It would need to be someone dominant enough to control a rogue.

"I don't want to send anyone in to get killed."

"Just me." Charles could use a dry tone, too.

"Just you," agreed Bran blandly. "But I'm not sending you out hurt. Samuel's here for the funeral. He can go check this out."

"You can't send Samuel." His response was immediate. The negative too strong to be just instinct. Sometimes his mother's spirits gave him a little help in planning for the future.

This time it was his father who waited. So he tried to figure out just why it was such a bad idea-and didn't like the answer he came up with.

"Since he came back from Texas, there's been something wrong with Samuel," Charles said finally.

"He's suicidal." Bran put it into words. "I threw him at Mercy to see if she could shake him out of it. That's why I sent you to Chicago instead of Washington."

Poor Mercy, poor Samuel. Charles ran a finger over Anna's arm. Thank God, thank all the spirits his father had never tried matchmaking for him. He looked down at Anna, and thought, thank goodness his father had sent him, and not Samuel, to Chicago.

The spirits responded to his impulsive prayer by interfering a bit further.

"Samuel's tough," he said, picking through the warning images that were thrusting themselves at him. "But he's a healer-and I don't think that's what this situation needs. I'll go. It'll have to wait a couple of days, but I'll go." The unease that had held him since his father contacted him settled down. His decision felt right.

His father didn't think so. "You took three silver bullets yesterday-or am I forgetting something? And lost control this morning."

"Two bullets and a scratch," Charles corrected. "So I'll limp a little on the trail. My control is fine now."

"You let Samuel take a look at you, then we'll talk." His father hung up abruptly. But his voice continued in Charles's head, I don't want to lose both of my children.

Charles replaced the handset, and said to Anna, "Ask."

"Bran, the Marrok, is going to bring the werewolves out to the public?" Her voice was hushed as if she could never imagine such a thing.

"He thinks that too many of the wrong people already know," he told her. "Science and computers have made it harder and harder for to hide. Da hopes that he can control it better if he initiates the flow of information rather than waiting until our enemies or some innocent idiot decides to do it for us."

She relaxed against him, thinking about it. "That will make life interesting."

He laughed, tucked her against him, and fell, blissfully, into sleep at last.

Chapter THREE

There was actually a town. Not much of a town, but it had a gas station, a hotel, and a two-story brick-and-stone building with a sign in front that proclaimed it the Aspen Creek School. Beyond the school, tucked back in the trees and barely visible from anywhere but the parking lot, was an old stone church. If not for Charles's directions, she might have missed it.

Anna eased his big green truck through the church parking lot into a spot designed for a much smaller rig. It was the only place left. She hadn't seen any houses, but there were a lot of trucks and other four-wheel-drive vehicles in the lot.

Charles's truck was older than she was, but looked as if it were brand-new. It had been driven less than fifty thousand miles, if she wanted to believe the odometer-about two thousand miles a year. Charles had told her he didn't like driving.

She turned off the engine and watched anxiously as Charles opened his door and slid to the ground. The drop didn't seem to bother him. The stain on his pink bandage had been no bigger this morning than it had been last night. But he still looked worn, and there was a flush under his skin that she worried about.

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