Monday, March 3, 2014
Ewan nodded. “Your great-grammy married a wolf shifter.”
“Oh no. She never married. She just really loved her … work. I’ve got a ton of freaky relatives.”
“Uh-huh,” Ewan murmured, while thinking, You go, granny. “So your branch of the family tree got the wolf genes?”
“Some wolf genes,” she corrected. “It’s thinned out over the generations. I’ve got enough that I can spot other werebeasts.”
“But not enough to shift.”
“No.” She kicked at a cushion. “Not enough to shift. That’s why I’ve been trying to find a real werewolf. The more I found out about Talbot’s Peak, the more I hoped … but you’re not traditional werewolves, are you? You can’t help me.”
“Not that way,” Ewan admitted. “Doesn’t mean we couldn’t come up with something. Magic or whatnot. It worked for the Mayor. He started out human, but now he turns into a squirrel three nights a month.”
She finally looked back at him, and even smiled a little. “You don’t have to lie to cheer me up.”
“No lie. I’m telling you, Talbot’s Peak is one weird place.” He edged a little closer to her. She didn’t move away. “As long as we’re coming clean on our backgrounds, I might as well fess up. I’m not all wolf either. I’m mostly coyote. And I’m not a cowboy. I was born and raised in Passaic, New Jersey. The wolf half of the family’s related to the Hancocks, so when my paws started itching I came west.”
“So it’s mostly wolves here?”
“It’s mostly bunnies. They breed faster. The wolves just think they’re in charge. There’s a tiger clan out in the foothills. Some bears, a few miscellaneous breeds. That’s it for apex predators. Everything else is herbivorous. Except for the Mayor, we’re all born shifters. No bitee, no changee. Sorry, darlin’. That’s just how it is.”
“Yeah.” Maureen’s shoulders slumped. They just happened to slump in his direction. Somebody had to help hold them up, so he put his arm around them. Chaos, they were bony. His wolf instincts sat up, stretched, and shook off the coyote influence. No he-wolf ever let a she-wolf go hungry. You had to look out for your pack.
“When’s the last time you ate?” he asked her.
“I dunno. Lunch, maybe. Ted got some cheese fries at the bar while we were looking for a subject. I grabbed one off his plate.” She rubbed her flat stomach. “I guess I could eat something. Might as well. I’m too wound up to sleep.”
“Tell you what: how about we stroll over to the kitchen and see what leftovers they haven’t tossed out yet? Dante always overbuys on burger because he knows the kitchen staff snacks. Not to mention the hot wings are to die for. They’re probably out of those.”
She had her hand on his forearm. It was small and warm and trembling. “What’s going to happen to me?”
“Long run? Well, Dante will keep you locked up and out of the way until we can deal with this mess, then have somebody, probably me, drive you back to the exit with a warning to leave town or else. Short term, you’re going to get dragged to the kitchen and forced to eat a proper meal.” Sudden terror clutched at his gut. “You’re not vegetarian, are you?”
“I’ve got wolf in me. How could I be?”
Thank Chaos. He puffed out a yip of relief. “Then allow me to treat you to dinner, Miss Kidnapper Hunter Wolf Gal.”
He offered her his arm. She smiled at him. Then she whapped him over the head with a cushion.
Surprise more than impact knocked Ewan over backward. The back of his head said howdy to the wall. He shook off the stars and whipped the cushion aside just in time to spot Maureen fling back the door and dash into the hallway.
Typical human. Not quite as smart but just as tricky as any coyote born. “My kind of woman,” he said with a grin, and leaped up to lope in pursuit.