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

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

Anna didn't say anything or move from her place near the door.

Leah turned to look at her, and there was nothing kind or friendly about her face now. "He had to scrape the bottom of the barrel for you, didn't he? Had to go all the way to Chicago to find a baby, a woman who wouldn't present any kind of challenge at all. Tell me, do you sit and stay when he tells you?"

The nastiness of the attack made it more personal than just a desire to put a lesser wolf in her place. Leah, for all that she was the Marrok's mate, sounded jealous. Did she want Charles, too?

The door popped open, and a second woman came into the house with a wave of cold air and French perfume. She was tall and slender, like a runway model-she looked expensive. Her brown hair was streaked with gold highlights emphasized by gold glitter brushed across her cheekbones and, more heavily, over a pair of magnificent blue eyes.

Anna recognized her from the funeral-she was not only beautiful, but dramatic, as well, and the combination made her memorable. The other woman shut the door behind her and shed her ski jacket, tossing it casually on the nearest chair. She was still wearing the dark skirt and sweater she'd had on earlier.

"Oh, come now, Leah. 'Sit and stay'? You can do better than that, darling." Her voice was thick and purring with Southern charm. To Anna she said, "Sorry just to barge in like this, but it sounded like you might need rescuing from our queen bitch."

"Leave, Sage. This has nothing to do with you," commanded Leah sharply, though she didn't seem inclined to take offense at the name-calling.

"Honey," said the woman sweetly, "I'd just love to do that, but I've got my orders from the boss-a step higher than you." Bright blue eyes slid over Anna. "You'd be Charles's Anna. I'm Sage Carhardt. Sorry about the rough welcome, but whatever makes our Charlie happy is sure to get her tail in a twist because our Alpha loves his sons."

"Shut up," Leah snapped, and power swept through the room, knocking Sage back two steps.

Funny, Anna would have sworn that Sage was the more dominant of the two...then she realized the energy tasted of the Marrok. A woman takes her place from her mate, she thought. She knew that, but hadn't understood that the power was real.

"You"-Leah had turned her attention to Anna-"go sit on the couch. I'll deal with you in a minute."

A prudent woman would have done it, Anna thought regretfully. The woman she had been a week ago would have cringed, sat, and waited for whatever hell would have followed. The Anna who was Charles's mate, who was Omega and outside of the pack order, lifted her chin, and said, "No, thank you. I think you'd better leave and come back when my"-three years a werewolf but calling Charles her mate sounded wrong, and he wasn't her husband- "when Charles is here." The hesitation robbed her statement of much of its strength.

Sage smiled, her whole face lighting with delight. "Yes, Leah, why don't you come back when Charles is here? I'd like to see that."

But Leah wasn't paying attention to her. Her eyebrows lowered in puzzlement as she stared at Anna. "Sit down," she said, her voice low and rich with a power that once more slid over Anna and did not touch her.

Anna frowned back. "No. Thank you." She thought of something, and before she could stop herself, she said, "I saw Sage at the funeral, but the Marrok was alone. Why weren't you beside him?"

"He had no business there," Leah said passionately. "He killed Carter. And now he pretends to mourn him? I couldn't keep him from going. He never listens to me anyway, does he? His sons are his advisors, all I am is a replacement for his lost love, the incomparably beautiful, self-sacrificing, Indian bitch. I can't stop him, but I won't support him, either." By the time she was finished, a tear slid down her face. She wiped it off and looked at it and then at Anna with an expression of horror. "Oh, God. Oh, my God. You're one of those. I should have known, should have known that Charles would bring something like you into my territory."

She left in a rush of cold air and rattled power, leaving Anna trying not to show how bewildered she was.

"I'd have paid money to see that." The smile was still spreading on Sage's face. "Oh, honey," she crooned, "I am so glad Charles brought you home. First Asil, then Leah. Life is going to be so much more interesting around here."

Anna wiped her sweaty hands on the sides of her jeans. There had been something odd about Leah's response, almost as if she'd been compelled to talk.

She swallowed and tried to look calm and welcoming. "Would you like something to drink?"

"Sure," Sage said. "Though knowing Charles, he doesn't have anything good to drink. I'll have some tea and tell you about me. Then you can tell me about yourself."

* * * *

Charles had to let his father support him out to the Humvee.

"Yes, well," said his da with a hint of a growl that told him just how worried Bran had been about him, "that'll teach you to dodge a bit quicker next time."

"Sorry," he apologized meekly as he sat in the passenger seat.

"Good," said Bran, shutting the door gently. "Don't let it happen again."

Charles belted in. He'd probably survive a wreck, but the way his da drove, the belt was useful in keeping him in his seat.

The burning heat that had kept his head from clearing was gone, but he wasn't well yet. Despite the soup Samuel had microwaved and made him eat, he felt as weak as a kitten. Brother Wolf was restless, wanting to find some dark and safe place to heal.

"You're really going to let Samuel be a lone wolf?" he asked once they were under way. The Marrok was possessive and territorial-it wasn't like him to allow someone who belonged to him to wander off. The last time Samuel had left, he hadn't asked permission, just disappeared. It had taken Charles a couple of years to track him down.

"I am so grateful to find something, anything, that Samuel wants to do, I'd do some blackmailing if I had to."

"You haven't already?" He liked Adam, the Tri-Cities Alpha, but it surprised him that the Marrok hadn't had to force his agreement; not many Alphas would welcome a lone wolf as dominant as Samuel into their territory.

"Not yet-" said his da thoughtfully. "Though I might have to help Samuel a little with Mercedes. She wasn't happy when I sent him back with her."

"Samuel can get around Mercedes."

"I hope so." Bran tapped his fingers on the steering wheel. "I like your Anna. She looks so delicate and shy, like a flower who would wilt at the first sharp word-and then she does something like facing down Asil."

Charles pushed his shoulders back in the seat as they caromed around an icy corner and onto the back road to his house. "You should see her with a rolling pin." He didn't try hiding the satisfaction in his voice. He was feeling better all the time. His ears had quit ringing, and his control was back. A little food and sleep, and he'd be almost back to normal.

"Would you like to come in?" he asked more out of politeness than desire.

"No." Da shook his head. "Send Sage home, too. She'll want to talk, but you and Anna need some time. Anna was pretty upset by the end of the service."

Charles looked up sharply. "I thought that was just a reaction to the funeral. Too many people she didn't know."

"No, there was something more."

Charles ran through the last of the funeral service, but he couldn't see what his father had. "I didn't notice anything."

"Sure you did." His da gave him a wry smile. "Why do you think you were so frantic when she drove off?"

"Was it the business with Asil?" If Asil had upset her, maybe Charles would take care of him and his father wouldn't have to bother.

Bran shook his head and laughed. "I keep telling you I can put thoughts in people's heads, but I can't take them out. I don't know what was bothering her. Ask her."

Miraculously, they arrived at his door without mishap. Charles slid down out of the Vee and thought for a moment his knees were going to let him slide all the way to the ground.

His father watched him carefully, but didn't offer to help.

"Thanks." He hated being weak, hated it more when people tried to baby him. At least he'd hated it until Anna.

"Get inside before you fall down," was all his da said. "That'll be thanks enough."

Either moving helped, or the cold, but his knees quit wobbling, and he was walking almost normally again by the time he made it to the front door.

His father honked twice and drove off as soon as his hand hit the doorknob. Charles walked into the house to find Sage and Anna sitting across from each other in the dining room, a cup of tea in front of each of them. But his nose told him that Anna had had another visitor, too.

He'd felt silly when he'd had his father send Sage over. But Leah's scent made him glad of his paranoia. It hadn't taken Leah long to make her first move.

Sage broke off whatever she was going to say to Anna and gave him a once-over instead. "Charlie," she said, "you look like hell." She jumped up, kissed him on the cheek, then went into the kitchen and dumped her cup in the sink.

"Thanks," he said dryly.

She grinned. "I'm going to go and leave you two honey-mooners to yourselves. Anna, don't you let him keep you here in his cave-give me a call and we'll do a girl's trip to Missoula for shopping or something." She breezed by and patted Charles's shoulder lightly before exiting.

Anna sipped her tea and looked at him out of dark, unfathomable eyes. She'd pulled her hair back with a band this morning, and he missed the whiskey-colored curls around her face.

"She called you 'Charlie,' " she said.

He raised an eyebrow.

She smiled, a sudden expression that lit her face. "It doesn't suit you."

"Sage is the only one who gets away with it," he admitted. "Fortunately."

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