Dead Heat Page 2

“I did, yes,” said Charles, apparently happy to talk about something? anything, else. “Samuel told me when he figured it out a couple of decades ago. Not the first time having a doctor in the family has been useful. I think that a human scientist published that data last month in an obscure journal; doubtless it’ll make the newspapers sooner or later.”

The alternative subject allowed him to relax enough to give her a wry smile over his shoulder before looking back out at the snow. “My da was overjoyed. Because of that, there is no way to use a blood test to see if someone is a werewolf or not—unless you’re testing the actual wolf, in which case the point is moot. I’m not sure he’d have ever brought us out into the open if it were so easy to identify us.”

“Okay.” Anna nodded. “It’s a good thing. Mostly. Except that there’s no way to tell if an embryo is human, genetically, or werewolf, if we want to go with a surrogate.”

“A surrogate,” he said.

She had hopes for the surrogate card. Charles’s mother had died giving birth to him. She knew that part of his objection, maybe his whole objection to having children, was the risk to her.

“If I can’t carry a baby to term because I have to change every full moon, then a surrogate is the obvious option. No one has done it before—so far as we know, anyway.”

He didn’t say anything, so she continued, laying out the issues for him. “Because there’s apparently no way to tell which embryo is werewolf, human, or some combination of the two, there’s still a good chance of spontaneous abortion, the same problem human mates of werewolves have. And then there’s the issue of what happens to a human woman who carries a werewolf baby for nine months. Will she become a werewolf? Samuel said we ought to consider a surrogate who wants to be a werewolf. That would eliminate the risk of catching … um … being infected…”

He said, very dryly, “Feeling diseased, Anna?”

No. But she wasn’t going to let him distract her.

“It would eliminate problems if such a pregnancy does make her Change, if our child is a werewolf instead of human,” she said with dignity. This wasn’t going at all well. “We don’t know if carrying a werewolf baby and giving birth would infect the mother—or if so, when. No one but your mother has ever carried a werewolf baby to term. If the surrogate wanted to Change in the first place, that would eliminate one part of that problem. The other being if the surrogate is Changed before the baby is viable.”

His back was now all the way toward her. “It sounds like we are offering a bribe. Carry our baby and we’ll let you Change. With the implied corollary—whatever we say or deny—that if you don’t carry our baby we won’t allow you to Change. And there is also the truth that most people die during the Change, and fewer women survive than men.”

“Yeah,” she agreed. “It sounds ugly when you put it like that. But there are a lot of surrogate births every year—and normal pregnancy is a life-and-death risk, too. If the surrogate goes into it knowing what might happen, and she’s still willing to make that deal in exchange for money and/or the chance to be Changed, I don’t have a problem. It’s still a risk, but it is an honest risk.”

“So we can risk someone else for this, can we?” he said, the hint of a savage growl in his voice. “Because they know as much as we know about what might happen to them, though we really don’t know anything.”

She opened her mouth to tell him about the things in the thick file Samuel had sent her, but she reconsidered. Maybe if she went at the problem from a different direction she’d get better results.

“Alternatively,” she said, “because science is having trouble with magic, I thought maybe someone who dealt with magic would have some ideas. I called Moira—”

He turned back to her, and some chance of light brought out the bones of his face and outlined his shoulders. He was so beautiful to her. His Salish heritage gave him bronze skin and rich, almost-black hair and eyes. Hard work and running as a wolf gave him the muscles that defined the contours of his warm skin. But it was the core of integrity and … Charlesness that really made her heart beat faster, that swamped her with knee-weakening desire.

Not just lust—though who wouldn’t lust after Charles? She savored the whole of him and thought again, Who wouldn’t lust after Charles? But she was consumed with the desire to claim him, to wrap herself in his essence.

Charles allowed her to understand the line in the marriage vows about “these two shall become one flesh.” That sentence had annoyed her immensely when she was nine or ten. Why should she give up who she was for some dumb boy? She’d taken her objections to her father, who had finally said, “When and if ‘some dumb boy’ loses his mind and agrees to marry you, then doubtless he’ll also be happy to take that phrase out.”

Anna had taken out the “obey” part when they married. She didn’t want to lie. Listen to, yes—obey, no. She’d had enough of obeying for ten lifetimes. She had, however, left in the part about “one flesh.”

With Charles she didn’t lose herself, she gained Charles. They were a united front against “the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.” He was her warm safe place in the storm of the world, and she … she thought that she was his home.

She wanted his children.

“Absolutely not,” he said, and for a moment she thought he was reading her mind because she had lost track of the conversation. But then he said, “No witchcraft.”

She wasn’t stupid. He was throwing out any obstacle he could find. She would have backed off except for the deep belief, born of the mating bond they shared, that he wanted a child even more than she did.

“Don’t fret,” she told him. “I won’t do it the way your mother did.” Unless there are no other options. “I actually thought that Moira might have some insights for Samuel. I thought it only fair to call and warn her that I’ve sent him after her … he sounded quite intense about the whole thing.”

He raised his head like a panicked horse. “Ah. I misunderstood. Good.”

Charles liked children. She knew he liked children. Why did he panic over the thought of their child? She considered asking him. But she’d tried variants of that; he’d given her a series of answers that were true as far as they went. She was pretty sure that he didn’t know the real answer. So it would be up to her to discover it.

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