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Home > Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1)(13)

Cry Wolf (Alpha & Omega #1)(13)
Author: Patricia Briggs

He stepped away from the pulpit and sat on the thronelike wooden chair on the right-hand side. There was the sound of shuffling and the creaking of wood, then an old woman stood up. A man with bright chestnut hair escorted her down the aisle, a hand under her elbow. As they walked by her pew, Anna could smell the wolf in him.

It took the old woman a few minutes to make it all the way to the top of the stairs to the pulpit. She was so small that she had to stand on a footstool, the werewolf behind her with his hands on her waist to steady her.

"Carter came to our store when he was eight years old," she said in a breathy, frail voice. "He gave me fifteen cents. When I asked him what it was for, he told me that a few days before, he and Hammond Markham had been in, and Hammond had stolen a candy bar. I asked him why it was he and not Hammond who was bringing the money. He told me that Hammond didn't know he was bringing me the money." She laughed and wiped a tear from her eye. "He assured me that it was Hammond 's money, though, stolen from his piggy bank just that morning."

The werewolf who had escorted her raised her hand to his mouth and kissed it. Then he lifted her into his arms, despite her protests, and carried her back to where they'd been sitting. Husband and wife, not the grandson and grandmother they appeared to be.

Anna shivered, suddenly fiercely glad that Charles was a wolf like her and not human.

Other people stood up and told more stories or read verses from the Bible. There were tears. The dead man, Carter Wallace-or rather Dr. Carter Wallace, since he evidently was the town's vet-had been loved by these people.

Charles stretched his feet out in front of him and bowed his head. Beside him, Samuel played absently with the violin case, rubbing at a worn spot on the leather.

She wondered how many funerals they'd been to, how many friends and relatives they'd buried. She'd cursed her ageless, regenerative body before-when it had made it darned hard to commit suicide. But the tension in Charles's shoulders, Samuel's fidgeting, and Bran's closed-down stillness told her that there were other things that made virtual immortality a curse.

She wondered if Charles had had a wife before. A human wife who aged as he did not. What would it be like when people she'd known as children grew old and died while she never got her first gray hair?

She glanced at Charles. He was two hundred years old, he'd told her, his brother and father even older. They'd been to a lot of funerals.

A rising nervousness in the congregation interrupted her thoughts. She looked around to see a girl walking up the aisle. There was nothing about her to suggest why she caused such a stir. Though she was too far away to scent over this many people, something about her shouted human.

The girl climbed the stairs, and tension sang in the air as she paged through the Bible, watching the audience under her lashes.

She put her finger on a page and read, " 'For this is the message that ye heard from the beginning, that we should love one another. Not as Cain, who was of that wicked one and slew his brother. And wherefore slew he him? Because his own works were evil, and his brother's righteous.' "

"Shawna, Carter's granddaughter," Charles murmured to her. "This is going to get ugly."

"She didn't study too hard," said Samuel just as quietly but with a faint touch of humor. "There are sharper-tongued writers than John in the Bible."

She continued a few more verses, then looked straight at the Marrok, who obliged her by meeting her eyes. Anna didn't feel any of the Alpha's power, but the girl dropped her gaze after no more than a half second.

"She's been away at school," said Charles in that almost silent voice. Anyone, werewolf or not, who was much farther from him than Anna wouldn't have been able to hear it. "She's young and full of herself-and has resented the hold Da has on Aspen Creek long before our Doc Wallace made the fatal decision to become a werewolf. But bringing that to his funeral is inexcusable."

Ah. Suddenly the tension and the anger made sense. Carter Wallace had been Changed. He hadn't made the transition well, and Bran had been forced to kill him.

Carter had been Bran's friend, he'd said. Somehow, she thought as she glanced up at his shuttered face, she didn't think he had many friends.

She reached up by her shoulder, where his hand dangled oh-so-casually, and she took the Marrok's hand in hers. It was an impulse thing; as soon as she realized what she had done she froze. But by then, he had taken her hand in a tight grip that belied his casual pose. It hurt, but she didn't believe it was on purpose. After a moment, his grip gentled.

At the pulpit, Shawna began talking again, her bitterness apparently unchecked by her inability to stare Bran down. "My grandfather was dying of bone cancer when the Marrok talked him into the Change. Gramps never wanted to be a werewolf, but, weakened and ill, he allowed himself to be persuaded." Her speech sounded memorized to Anna, like she'd practiced it in front of a mirror.

"He listened to his friend." She didn't look at Bran again, but not even Anna, who hadn't known the dead man, was uncertain whom she meant. "So instead of dying from illness, he died from a broken neck because Bran decided he didn't make a good enough werewolf. Maybe Gramps would have thought it a better death." Her "I don't" remained unsaid, but it rang through the room after she left the pulpit.

Anna was prepared to hate her, but as the girl walked past them with a defiant tilt to her chin, Anna noticed her eyes were red and puffy.

There was a moment when she thought Charles was going to explode to his feet, she could feel that boiling rage building, but it was Samuel who rose. He left the violin case behind him as he walked up to take the podium.

As if blind to the atmosphere, he launched into a story about a very young Carter Wallace who evaded the keeping of his mother to go for a walk and ended up some three miles into the woods before his father finally found him not two feet from an irritated rattlesnake. Carter's werewolf father killed the snake-enraging his son. "I never saw Carter that mad before or since." Samuel grinned. "He was sure that snake was his friend, and poor old Henry, Carter's da, was too shaken to argue the point."

Samuel's smile died away, and he let the silence build before speaking again. "Shawna was away when the debate took place, so I'll excuse her misinformation," he said. "My father did not think it was a good idea that Carter face the Change. He told all of us, Doc included, that Doc was too softhearted to thrive as a wolf."

The pulpit creaked ominously under Samuel's hold, and he opened his hands deliberately. "To my shame, I took his son Gerry's part, and between the two of us, his doctor and his son, we persuaded Carter to try it. My father, knowing that a man as ill as Doc was a poor risk, took the task of Changing him-and he managed it. But he was right. Carter could neither accept nor control the wolf inside. Had he been anyone else, he would have died in February with the others who failed the Change. But Gerry, whose task it most properly was, would not do it. And without his consent, my father felt he could not."

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