Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(12)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(12)
Author: Patricia Briggs

"Just killing us," Anna said. "That's tough, but it's not impossible. But holding a werewolf while you torture him..."

"Magic?" asked Singh. The Homeland Security agent had totally forgotten that his first intention had been to find out more about the werewolves. Charles found that he liked him - and he hadn't expected to.

Anna shrugged. "That or extremely good planning. It's not just strength - we metabolize very quickly. Drugging or incapacitating one of us for long without killing us is extremely difficult."

"Holy water," said Pat the former FBI and now Cantrip agent.

Anna didn't roll her eyes but she let Charles feel her exasperation. "I could drink it every day for a week - and do it while living in the Sistine Chapel."

"Silver?" That was Heuter, again.

"Are there black marks where they've been restrained?" Anna asked. "Silver burns us like fire or acid."

They didn't answer her question. Charles had noticed that from the 1990s victims on, the photos of the now-dead people were from the neck down, and sometimes there were no crime scene photos at all. He was pretty certain that the lack wasn't an oversight.

"And how," Anna continued, "did he know they were werewolves? Only one of them, the local wolf, had come out publicly."

There was some more discussion, but Charles let Brother Wolf assimilate it while he observed the room. Agent Fisher was watching Anna with the same look that Asil got when he found a rose that he wanted for his greenhouse, sort of greedy and satisfied.

We're not going to have to talk our way into helping with this case, he told Anna. Agent Fisher wants us for her very own.

Brother Wolf brought his attention back to the room, where the other Homeland Security agent, Jim Pierce, was speaking. "What if the killer was a werewolf?"

Anna shook her head. "Then you wouldn't be finding tagged bodies; you'd be finding body parts."

"Werewolves eat people?" asked Heuter, coming alert like a hound. "That killing in Minnesota - that was werewolves?"

Anna snorted and lied like a politician. "Look. Becoming a werewolf doesn't make you a serial killer - and it doesn't make you a superhero, either. Whoever you were, that's who you are. If a bad guy gets Changed, he's still a bad guy. However, we police our own and we're pretty good at it. Mostly we're just ordinary people who turn into a wolf during the full moon and go out and hunt rabbits."

Being Changed turned everyone into killers. Werewolves weren't timber wolves or red wolves who hunted only when they were hungry. Werewolves were killers - and the ones who couldn't control it sometimes took a lot of people with them before they died.

No one looking at his mate's earnest freckled face would ever hear the lie - unless they were a werewolf, too. His da would be proud.

Chapter 4

Anna followed Charles out of the hotel, trying to figure out what had happened with him and why so she could decide how to proceed.

Charles led the way out of the hotel and turned in the direction of the condo where they were staying. Charles, the Aspen Creek Pack, and the pack's corporation had condos all over the place. The one in Boston belonged to the corporation. It made travel more discreet, no hotel charges, no strangers coming in to clean every day.

"Wait a minute," she said.

Charles turned back. The expression on his face was exactly the same as the one he'd had when they left their house yesterday, heading for the airport so he could fly them to Seattle, where they had caught the commercial flight. But he felt so different.

When Charles had chosen to frighten all those poor people at the airport so she'd win her bet, she'd thought she'd detected mischief in his eyes. But it had been so long since he'd laughed - or teased her with his sneaky sense of humor - that she'd been afraid to hope. After all, they had been patting him down pretty thoroughly, something that could have ticked him off enough to growl, and the timing could have been accidental.

And even the meeting...it had been necessary, if the feds were to believe she was the one with the information, for him to feed it to her. And the best way to do that was for him to open the bond between them. Bran didn't want the feds scared of werewolves, and Charles, especially the past few months, was really scary.

If he were just doing it for business's sake, he would have closed their link down when they left the hotel, but he hadn't. And he'd touched her.

Bran, it seemed, had indeed found a cure - or at least a bandage - for his son.

"What?" Charles asked. Evidently she'd been staring at him too long. He reached up and tucked a flyaway piece of her hair behind her ear.

She wanted to grab his hand and hold it to her, wanted to climb into his arms and feel them close around her. But she was afraid if she drew his attention to it, he'd close her off again. So she kept her hands to herself and bounced up and down on the balls of her feet a couple of times instead. She needed to keep him off his game, keep him thinking about other things - and she had just the thing to do it with.

"Let's go exploring." She pulled the city map she'd taken from the hotel's lobby this morning out of her pocket and opened it up.

"I know Boston," said Charles, with a slightly pained look around to see if anyone had noticed the map. It was bright orange and highly unlikely to evade even the most casual glance.

"But I don't," she told him, enjoying the expression on his face. Being mated to a wolf two hundred years her elder meant that she seldom got to see him disconcerted. "And since I want to do the exploring..." He would take her to interesting places, she knew. Tomorrow that would be good, and doubtless she'd enjoy it more than anything she found herself. But today she wanted to be more...spontaneous.

"If you run around with that bright orange map in your hand," Charles told her, "everyone will think you're a tourist."

"When was the last time you were a tourist?" she asked archly.

He just looked at her. Charles, she had to agree, was not tourist material.

"Right," Anna told him. "Buck up. You might even enjoy it."

"You might as well have 'hapless victim' tattooed across your forehead," he muttered.

She grabbed his hand and pulled him across the street to King's Chapel and the oldest graveyard in Boston - according to her map.

TWO HOURS LATER, she was vying for food in the North Market building of Faneuil Hall Marketplace with what felt like four hundred tourist groups while Charles waited nearby with his back against the wall. The three feet of empty space around him was probably the only space open in the whole place - but that was Charles; people just didn't crowd him. Smart people.

Since most of the tourists in front of the booth where she'd chosen to grab lunch came all the way to Anna's waist, she was pretty sure she was in no danger, but you couldn't tell it by the focused attention her mate aimed at the children.

If you can't tell that I'm looking at something on you that is precisely on level with the little ones' heads - his voice in her head had a rough purr - then you need your eyes checked.

Her jaw dropped. Was he flirting with her? Anna turned her head to meet his gaze, which dropped immediately to her rear end. She jerked her head back before he saw her smirk - or her red cheeks. He had been checking out the crowd. She'd seen him do it, seen him take a good long look at each of the kids.

But Charles certainly wasn't lying to her, either, so all the rest had been automatic, but checking her out had been on purpose. She smiled and felt her wolf relax into the rightness of flirting with her mate.

She had plenty of time for her cheeks to cool. It took a while before she managed to order food - mostly because she took pity on an overwhelmed teacher who seemed to be in charge of a million kids all by herself. Anna escaped at last with a pair of sandwiches and a couple of bottles of water and let Charles escort her outside the building to hunt for someplace to sit and eat.

"We could have gone into a real restaurant," Charles said, taking a bottle of water she handed him. "Or waited for the starving hordes to disperse before joining the fray." He sounded serious, as always, but she knew better, knew because their bond conveyed his amusement.

"They were all of seven years old. I was confident that I was unlikely to end up on their plate when there were hot dogs and ice cream to be had."

"If they weren't predatory, you shouldn't have had to manhandle them," he said, making tracks toward an unoccupied seating area. Anna saw at least one other person start for the same place, then notice Charles and turn away, but at least he didn't look panicked.

"They couldn't see over the counter to the food," she told him. "We had a deal. They didn't bite me and I'd lift them up so they could see." She'd expected them to be shyer, but they'd really seemed to have had fun. Maybe they'd been too young to be worried about strangers. The teacher had been too busy lifting up her half of the class to worry about Anna. Apparently the mothers who were supposed to be helping had wandered off to the ladies' room.

"All of the children?"

"Half. One at a time. It's not like they weighed very much. And I had help."

"Hmm." Charles raised an eyebrow. "There was some pretty intense jockeying for position considering that the prize was hot dogs and sandwiches and not priceless art treasures. I saw you elbow that woman."

"She cut in front of a seven-year-old little boy," Anna told him indignantly. "Who does that?"

"Ladies wearing four thousand dollars in diamonds, apparently." He cleared the table of the remains of someone else's meal and tossed it in a nearby trash can.

"I don't cut in front of children and I have four thousand dollars' worth of diamonds." She plopped on a narrow bench and put her food on the minuscule table, hoping it wouldn't wobble and dump everything on the ground.

"Do you?" Charles asked mildly, taking a seat on the other side. The one-person benches, unlike the table, looked sturdy enough and didn't creak beneath his weight, though she saw him rock a little to make sure it would hold. "Except for your ring, you don't wear them. And the ring is not worth four thousand."

   
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