Dead Heat Page 14

Charles knelt beside her. “You are dying. Do you understand? I can Change you if you wish it.”

She said something, too faint for even his ears to hear.

It must be now, said Brother Wolf. And we must be in wolf skin.

She couldn’t give permission, but there was someone here who could. Brother Wolf’s shape came over him—the wolf had dictated the change. It was so simple, the change from man to wolf, this close to the full moon’s call when he had not walked on four feet for days. As the wolf shape became his, Charles sent his will to his mate.

Tell him to choose for his wife. Do I let her die—or do I Change her?



The hallway behind Brother Wolf filled with people, some he knew, some he didn’t. But Anna was there; she was the one he needed.

He stared at her, and she turned to the human who was the dying woman’s mate.

“Your wife is dying,” she said. “Charles says she is strong-willed and courageous. He is willing to Change her—but she is not in any condition to make that choice.”

“No,” snarled Hosteen suddenly. “Not her. It’s not supposed to be her. If Charles won’t Change my son, he doesn’t get to decide to Change her instead. Not her.”

Quiet filled the hallway as Brother Wolf met Hosteen’s eyes and drove the Alpha to his knees. It was not for that one to tell him what he could or could not do.

“Grandfather?” asked Kage from behind Brother Wolf. That one had bolted for his mate as soon as he’d seen her, ignoring Brother Wolf’s presence.

“He’s fine,” said Anna grimly. “He just forgot who is in charge here, and Brother Wolf—Charles reminded him. You have a decision to make, Kage, or it will soon be made for you. Would your wife accept life as one of us? You know how we are regarded by the rest of the human race.”

Charles had some other things for Anna to tell Kage.

She listened and then said, “Charles wants me to point out that if she dies, we are unlikely to find out why a fae bewitched her into attacking her children. It will be difficult to find that fae and bring them to justice, leaving Chelsea’s attacker free to continue killing. Your wife fought the magic, saved the children at great expense. Is that enough for her? Or would she want to stop her attacker?”

The woman was fading, and Brother Wolf shot an impatient look at Anna.

“No,” said Hosteen, without getting up or raising his eyes. “Not Chelsea.”

“Why not?” asked Kage. “Because she isn’t the wife you wanted for me? Because she doesn’t like you? That is your fault, old man.”

“She is witchborn,” hissed Hosteen. “Witches are evil.”

I am witchborn, Brother Wolf told Anna.

She nodded at him but didn’t interrupt. She was better with people than he or Charles. If she thought that fact would not be useful now, she was probably right.

“Her grandmother was a witch,” Joseph’s son said in a reasonably snarly voice for a human. “Chelsea has no power at all.”

That was not true. Without power she would never have defeated the geas laid upon her. In fact, the closer to death she drew, the more easily Brother Wolf could smell witch. That probably meant she had some way to hide it, and now that she lay dying her magic was dying with her.

He glanced at the children, at the small girl who looked at him with a steady gaze though her hand was grasping the bottom of the shirt of the young man standing next to her. That one smelled like something more. Witch.

Hosteen hissed between his teeth, unsatisfied. “Witchborn should not be werewolf.”

“Mama?” said a small voice. Brother Wolf saw the youngest child grab hold of the teenage boy’s hand. “Mama?”

“It’ll be okay, Michael,” said Kage, his face ravaged as he knelt beside his wife. “Yes, Charles, yes. Change her. Grandfather, take the children away, please.”

“I’m not leaving,” said Hosteen.

“Stay,” said Anna decisively. “I’ll take the children. Hosteen should stay.”

He’ll make her angry, Anna’s voice rang in his head. Make her fight to live. “I have to leave because I’m not useful at this stage.”

She gathered the children despite the young man’s protests and left the room. That was right, Brother Wolf thought. The Omega soothed. Surviving the change was a battlefield, and this woman who lay at his feet needed to remember how to fight.

He waited until Anna left the room.

“What do—” began the woman’s mate. He might have been talking to Hosteen or to Charles. It didn’t matter to Brother Wolf.

He sank his teeth into her thigh, tasting old blood and, faintly, detergent from her clothes. He shook his head to tear flesh and let his saliva flow into the damaged tissue. He had not Changed many people—his job was to kill. More often than he’d like, it was to kill in the most gruesome manner possible to discourage others from following the choices that had led to his victims’ deaths. This was better.

Inexperienced or not, he knew how it worked, had stood witness to hundreds of Changes and nearly that many deaths in the days that followed. He knew what not to do. He didn’t bite her near her head or heart. She needed both to function for the Change to take place. The thigh was meaty with lots of little blood vessels to take his magic and spread it through her body.

Her mate cried out and would have tried to interfere, but Hosteen, who had Changed a lot more people than Charles had, stopped him with an arm around his shoulders. He dragged his grandson away from Brother Wolf and his charge, out of the bathroom and into the laundry room where they could watch from a distance.

“If you want this,” Hosteen said heavily, “and if you don’t want to join her in death or Change, then leave the wolf to his work. He won’t allow your interference, not now. She won’t hurt long, one way or another.”

Brother Wolf did not like Hosteen—though he knew that Charles did. They did not always share the same opinions, even though they shared their existence. Though what Hosteen told the woman’s mate was not meant to be comforting, it was truthful.

Brother Wolf released her leg and considered. She needed to be dying from a werewolf bite—not blood loss. His next bite was to her soft belly. He let himself taste the sweetness of her flesh, let the flavor of it stimulate his saliva glands—and then he did something he’d seen his father do once.

He slashed his own leg and bled into the wound, letting the pack magic seep in, binding them together: temporary pack. It was an awkward feeling; he wanted to make her his. His to protect, to lead, to live with: to make her family. But Charles did not want to lead a pack. Brother Wolf rejoiced in the understanding that they belonged to the Marrok and felt no need to rule his own pack. It was not his place to bring a wolf into the Marrok’s pack. So he let this magic lie uneasily and temporarily between them.

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