Home > Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(13)

Fair Game (Alpha & Omega #3)(13)
Author: Patricia Briggs

"That one necklace, right? Wearing it wouldn't make me cut in front of some poor, hungry kid." He was playing with her, he was, teasing her because she was afraid to wear the jewelry his father had given her when they were married. Her wolf wanted to wiggle in joy and go hunt something to celebrate. Anna took a bite of sandwich. "Though maybe I'd have to put on the bracelet, too."

"No," he said. "Just the bracelet would do. But you don't wear them."

Her necklace was covered in at least twice the number of diamonds and several larger stones. She absorbed the idea of the bracelet itself being worth more than four thousand dollars, and was doubly grateful that she hadn't worn them. She tended to play with anything hanging around her neck - what if she broke the necklace?

"There's a time and place for stuff like that." Anna tried not to show him how appalled she was at the value of the jewelry. She preferred to downplay the material changes in her life since she'd met and mated with Charles. They weren't the important changes - if occasionally she found them more difficult than the real ways her life had altered. "When you're going shopping isn't a good time for jewels, especially if that makes you think that pushing around little kids is okay."

He raised his eyebrows. "Oh? When were you planning on wearing your diamonds?" Charles sounded amused. He knew that she was planning on never wearing them now that she knew what they were worth.

"Maybe if we were meeting the Queen of England." She thought about it for a moment. "Or if I really needed to outshine someone I didn't like." She took a few more bites of a sandwich that needed a little something...onion or radish, maybe. Something with a bite.

She really couldn't imagine a situation dire enough to risk wearing something like that set, especially not if the bracelet was worth four thousand dollars. What if the clasp gave way?

"Ah. That would be never?" It didn't seem to bother him one way or the other.

Anna thought about it seriously. "Maybe if I needed to intimidate someone - like if my brother decided to remarry and my dad told me he didn't like her so I had to fly to Chicago and drive her off. I would even cut her in line for a hot dog while I was wearing them. But she wouldn't be seven, either."

Charles smiled. It wasn't a laugh or a grin. But it wasn't his you're-going-to-die-before-you-breathe-your-next-gulp-of-air smile, either, which was as close to a real smile as she'd seen on his face for a while.

She gave a contented sigh and tapped the toe of her boot against the leg of his suit. They'd have been more comfortable in casual clothes, but then they'd have had to go change. And she was afraid that going back to the condo would give him an excuse to shut down again.

"It's all right," he said. "We can go change and do some more touristy stuff."

He was reading her through their bond. Hiding the warm fuzzies that gave her behind a distrustful look, Anna took a bite of her sandwich and then said, "Okay. But only if you'll agree to do this with me." She took her now-bedraggled map out of her pocket and tapped a finger on an advertisement.

Charles looked, heaved a long sigh. "I should have known we wouldn't get out of here without doing the imitation trolley car cemetery tour complete with costumed ghouls."

"Not in my territory," snarled someone behind her.

As it seemed an unlikely response to Charles's pseudo-reluctant agreement, Anna initially assumed it was directed at someone else. But Charles tilted his head and lowered his eyelids, the muscles tightening subtly in his shoulders, so Anna turned around in her seat to see who had spoken.

In rows along the outdoor marketplace were dozens of dark green wagons, resembling nothing so much as the covered wagons in her father's beloved old Western movies. The wagons served as kiosks where people sold T-shirts, purses, or other small portable goods. Standing on the top of the one nearest them was a young-looking black man, fine-boned and slight, watching them - watching Charles, anyway - with yellow eyes as the strings of beading supplies hanging from hooks all over the wagon swayed unsteadily.

From photos, she recognized him as Isaac Owens, the Alpha of the Olde Towne Pack - Boston being the Olde Towne, complete with the final Es. He wasn't in the habit of running around on the tops of unlikely perches or he'd have been in the local paper a lot more than he already was.

"You're attracting attention," said Charles in a conversational tone designed not to carry to human ears. Isaac, being a werewolf, would hear him just fine despite being a dozen yards away. "Do you really want that?"

"I'm out. They know who I am." Projecting his voice to anyone who cared to listen - and people were starting to pause what they were doing to listen - Isaac raised his chin aggressively. "What about you?"

Charles shrugged. "In, out, it doesn't matter." He leaned forward and lowered his voice. "No more does your declaration. You lost control of the situation that brings me here when you chose not to report the deaths in your territory. You have no say over what I do or don't do."

"We didn't kill anyone," Isaac declared, and pointed at Charles. "And you will have to go through me to take any of my pack."

Isaac was new, Anna remembered. New at his job, new at being a wolf - and, like her, he'd been a college student when he'd been Changed. Normally it would have been years before he was Alpha, no matter how much potential dominance he had. But the Olde Towne Pack had lost its Alpha last year in a freak sailing accident and Isaac, who had been second, had stepped in to do the job. His second was an old wolf who probably didn't know anything at all about this stunt.

The woman who was working the kiosk - her body bestrewn with hand-beaded jewelry and tattoos in a bewildering mixture of color and texture - was backing slowly away, trying not to draw attention to herself. Not a bad strategy for someone caught between predators, though less glittery jewelry might have helped - another reason for Anna not to wear the diamonds.

"If no laws were broken, no one is at risk," said Charles, and Isaac sneered.

"Get off the stupid wagon before that poor lady calls nine-one-one," Anna said, exasperated. "Come introduce yourself, Isaac, and see what happens." She said it loud enough that she was clearly audible to the crowd of people that was forming a ring around them - close enough to see what was going on, not so close as to get involved. That meant she was speaking almost as loudly as Isaac had been.

The local Alpha looked at her for the first time and frowned. His nostrils flared as he tried to catch her scent - which would have been impossible to filter from the rest of the people nearby except that she smelled like an Omega wolf.

After a rather long pause, Isaac shrugged his shoulders to loosen the muscles and walked off the end of the wagon - a good nine-or ten-foot drop. He landed with flexed knees and turned to the proprietor of the shop, who'd stopped when Anna had drawn attention to her.

"My apologies," he told her. "I didn't mean to scare you." He smiled and handed her a card. "A friend of mine runs a pub - stop by and have a meal on us."

The woman took the card with a rather shaky hand that steadied as Isaac's smile warmed. She glanced down and her eyebrows rose. "I've eaten there. Good fish and chips."

"I think so, too," he said, gave her a wink, and strolled over to where Anna and Charles sat.

"Nice PR," Anna said. "Though considering what went before, I'm not inclined to give you an A for it."

He studied her, ignoring Charles's brooding presence. "Ayah, nah," he said, exaggerating his Boston accent into incomprehensible nasal sounds before he dropped most of it to continue more clearly. "What in the hell are you?"

"Good to meet you, too," Anna said. "I bet that card was your second's idea, wasn't it? To make up for your lack of manners?" She dropped her voice and added a touch of Boston to it. "Oops - sorry I destroyed your car. Here, have a meal on me. Was that your dog I ate? Oh, sorry. Have a drink at my friend's pub and forget all about it."

Isaac grinned, a sudden, charming expression that showed white, white teeth in his blue-black face. "Caught me, darling. But you didn't answer my question."

"She is mine," said Charles. His aggressive answer didn't show up in his voice, which was low and calm. "We have a meeting scheduled tomorrow, with you and your pack. There was no need for this..." He glanced around. People were still watching them, but they were pretending not to. "Theater," he finished.

"This is Boston, hoss." Isaac bent his knees and squatted, putting his head on a level with theirs. "That's 'thee-ah-tah.' We're all about theater here." He pronounced the second "theater" just as Charles had. He wasn't native to Boston, she remembered. She thought he was from Michigan or Pennsylvania.

Anna gave him a gimlet eye and spoke to Charles. "He was probably walking by and spotted us. Decided he couldn't wait until tomorrow to throw a hissy fit."

"And aren't you one to burst everyone's posturing?" Isaac's dark eyes considered her. Then, in a more down-to-earth tone, he looked at Charles and said, "As a matter of fact, she's right." Then his face and his voice went very, very serious. "I meant what I said. To get to my wolves, you'll have to go over my dead body."

"If you do your job, he'll never have to do his." Bitterness made Anna's tone sharper than she meant it to be.

"She make all of your words, kemosabe?" Isaac asked Charles.

Charles raised his eyebrows in an exaggerated fashion and pointed his chin at Anna as if waiting for her to answer for him. He never used his fingers to point. It was, he'd told her, very bad manners among his mother's people.

Speaking of bad manners..."Where's our card for a free meal?" Anna demanded. "I think you owe us one. Cogita ante salis, my father would tell you. You should think before you leap."

   
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