Authors: Mark Henwick,Lauren Sweet
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Science Fiction & Fantasy, #Fantasy, #Contemporary, #Urban, #Paranormal & Urban, #Urban Fantasy
I was so shocked I looked up and caught Felix’s eyes.
There was little of the unthinking Call in his look, more of calculation. And hope.
This was worse than the Athanate Assembly. Skylur had been hampered by keeping Panethus in line and avoiding saying anything the Truth Sensors could identify as a lie.
Felix had to manage the whole pack through the Call. But he also had to remain true to the Call; otherwise he’d lose the pack anyway.
If he wasn’t resigned to his fate, he was expecting me to understand something, and even more, to communicate it to the whole pack.
I brushed against Alex with eukori, reading him, trying to hold him back.
The Call began to press on us. I felt as if I couldn’t get enough air in my lungs.
If I didn’t get it, Felix
us to challenge him and take over. He’d put the pack ahead of his life. He’d put his life in my hands.
The Were are all about spirit. About heart and feeling and emotion. They are enthused. The word means filled with a sense of the divine.
I had moments to get it right, or Alex would challenge and I’d back him.
Was I enthused?
The Were had been a problem for me, threatening to drive my Athanate rogue, or threatening to go rogue because of my Athanate. I’d used it. The ability to change. Cool, huh? And Felix had been needling me the whole time. I’d been accidentally infused. Not my fault. Why couldn’t they just accept it?
Wrong. Wrong. Wrong.
The problem wasn’t with Felix or the pack. The problem was in me. I was giving all the wrong signals. The things I’d suggested to the pack might work, but not while I was broadcasting a rejection of being Were.
A Were has to be whole-hearted, or be false.
Noble had managed to fake it. They wouldn’t accept another fake.
What had Duane said?
Do you enjoy being Were? Running the mountain?
Were belonged. I could feel the pack’s roots in this land.
Did I belong like that?
I felt Alex tensing, readying himself. Felix had stopped in front of us. Committed. Waiting.
I thought about Bitter Hooks, wanting to run through the sacred woods by the light of the moon. I thought about the homesickness for Denver when I’d been away all over the world. The longing for the mountains, for home.
My feelings today. My love for this strange mountain. The forests above us that I’d flown over and fought in.
Our determination to keep the Confederation out. To expel the intruders.
And very quietly, the most profound sense of place unfolded inside me.
I thought of running with Alex, a whole day, a whole night, nothing but the vast wilderness around us, no tomorrows or yesterdays. Running for the joy of it.
Alex’s love for the land. His eagerness to dig into its history and peoples.
Our shared grief for Hope, buried at Bitter Hooks.
All our feelings. All our joys. All our sorrows.
We belong here, we said.
We offered ourselves up to the Call, letting it shine through us like a searchlight.
It changed us, and we changed it.
The three of us stumbled from the barn into the freezing night, blinded a bit in the eyes and a lot in the head.
The pack stayed behind.
Felix hadn’t suddenly changed his mind about everything. The pack accepted that we were different and in Denver. We supported Felix. His dominance had grown from it. The pack liked that. They’d tasted our emotions, our love for the territory. And they respected that.
Exactly what that made us and how the relationship would develop, Felix had left for contemplation, as Ricky would have said.
He’d had invited us to return and stay at Coykuti. I found myself looking forward to it.
It was like my Dad had once said to me.
Break bread over a disagreement, lots of times, if you have to. There’s not many arguments that don’t wear down with use.
It was enough for me, for now, and more than enough for Alex.
For all the bravado and projecting that we were more than a match for Felix, changing twice had re-opened Alex’s injuries. He was still too proud to allow David to help, but I propped him up under the guise of walking with my arm around him.
David had parked the Hill Bitch close, thank the stars.
Duane was standing next to it.
As we came up, he kicked one of the oversized tires. “I see you listened,” he drawled. Whether he was talking about tires or how to communicate with the pack, who knew?
“Yeah. G’night, Duane.”
“G’night.” He wandered back toward the barn, whistling an old tune.
David updated me while I got Alex comfortable in the back.
He’d gotten back from Fort Collins as soon as the roads opened. He’d passed by Manassah and the Kwan to check everything.
A small group of Nagas had attacked the Kwan. None had survived.
The FBI had grounded the helicopters that were intended to come out and airlift the Nagas on the mountain.
Petersen and the rest of his cronies in command had fled the country.
David had joined Ursula, Emily and Naryn and they’d swapped cars to allow him to come back out here while Emily was taken home.
I got in with Alex and worked some more Athanate healing on him. Nothing to do with enjoying it at all. The strongbox rattled but subsided. Even if I had to ask Kaothos to come over and sit on that damned strongbox, I was going to find a way to comfort my kin.
“I can understand that you didn’t want the gun,” David said, interrupting me. “But you’ve got a list of all the pack members. You could have used that to force them to make you a concession.”
“I could, I guess,” I said. “Not the best way to start a relationship, though. Besides, I gave Felix my oath that I wouldn’t use it except for the pack’s benefit. He knows I wouldn’t have gone through with any threat.”
“The pack doesn’t, though. I got the feeling he was kinda playing it to achieve a result.”
There was no doubt about it. Felix had spent a long time running this pack, which was exactly the reason he needed to be the one to keep running it. In that time, he’d probably learned all there was to working with the Call for the good of the pack. I doubted he’d planned it from the start, but I’d definitely been maneuvered at that meeting, and skillfully, too.
And if Felix was doing that to me without me being aware of it, what about Skylur? He was even older; more canny, more subtle, and much longer at the job.
Was I just a pawn between them?
What if they’d conspired to use me to set up an alliance between the pack and Altau? Here was me thinking it was my idea, and in fact they’d manipulated me into it.
No. I shuddered. Enough paranoia. Felix had put his life on the line, betting it would go the way it did.
“After I drop you off, I’ve got to collect Jen and the others at DIA.” David interrupted my thoughts. “Where do you want to go?”
“Manassah,” I said.
“My home,” he said.
“No.” I rested my hand on him. “We’re going back to Manassah. There, you will rest in bed according to the instructions of your physician. That’s me.” I rubbed my hand lightly over his chest and kissed his forehead. “Jen will be coming back, and you are going to be looked after by both of us. Me
He snorted, wincing as it hurt his ribs. “Can’t you just find me another mutant Were monster to fight instead?”
Humor. Good. That was a start. I could work with that.
In fact, I’d probably need lots of it for the job. My kin were a problem, but what was the old joke? Ah, yes.
The sort of problem I like wrestling with.
My thanks to all who worked with me and support me, without whom this book would not have been written.
All the guys & gals who email me, or who post on the web site and Facebook page, all those reviewers and bloggers, and all those readers out there – you provide the fuel that runs this writing engine.
The cover image team: Chris Mann, Maria Askew and Gideon Henwick.
My Colorado insider information service: Leiah and Lis.
My beta readers: Jessica, Gail, Leiah, TK and Kathleen.
My sub-editor: Jessica.
My editor: Lauren Sweet.
And, without which nothing, my wife and family.
Chris Mann :
- photographer, actor
Gideon Henwick :
– digital artist
Lauren Sweet :
– author, editor
Maria Askew :
– actor, model
Reviews, schedules & news on
Table of Contents