The older woman sat in her granddaughter's apartment. It was a warm space, cluttered, well lived in. The scattered paraphernalia of her granddaughter's life was all around her. Sheet music scattered on the bed was joined by the guitar propped against the wall next to it. The laundry was escaping the hamper. The apartment had only one flaw. It was tiny.

The low ceilings and tiny rooms of the converted attic were charming, but impractical for one of her height. She stood at near six feet. The slanted ceilings left little room for her to move about.

The view was appealing. Rooftops and a distant bit of green looked welcoming, but they held no interest for her. She did not enjoy the close confines of city life, but this city repulsed her more than most. She walked over to the other open window. It was probably the hell mouth making its presence known. Why any creature would chose this place was beyond her. She watched the humans hurry along the lighted walkways. Sheep. Nothing but sheep.

Turning her attention back to the task at hand, she took a deep breath and moved back into the tight space. Her hands trailed along the things her granddaughter had left behind. It wasn't like her to miss a call, but one would have been understandable. Three had brought the family at high alert. Something was wrong.

Things had been going well. Every call had been full of amusing anecdotes. She had sent home cassette tapes of her band. Playing at humanity had amused the pup.

There had been a wolf, young and unaffiliated, a good fit for the pack's needs. With all five of her daughters lost in the last clan war, they needed fresh blood. Veruca was the pack's future, the next alpha. She had left to find a mate, an unrelated male. She had accomplished her goal, at least in part. Now, she was missing. Her apartment had been empty for some time. The scents were all dulled.

The matryoshka dolls lined up behind a row of photographs drew her eye. A smile flitted across her face. Bless the child for keeping the old ways alive. She stalked to the shelf and plucked the disguising clutter away from the five dolls. She looked at the smallest one, a young girl a small wolf toy. Her own daughter's hand had made this doll. Veruca's mother had painted it for her daughter before she had left to go into battle. The fact that it had been her last act made it a treasure. She rubbed her finger over the smallest doll. There was a time for sentimentality, but it was not now. She plucked it up and pushed the doll deep into the pocket of her jeans. She looked at the four remaining dolls.

The largest was a blonde woman bearing the hammer of their clan. It resembled her some forty years before. She opened it and sniffed at the olive drab bit of jersey. The acrid scent of guns and an odd electrical fire smell were complimented by a hit of nonhuman blood, and human sweat. This scent was that of Veruca's enemies and her own. Veruca had felt this scent belonged to a threat to the pack. She snarled.

She paced, trying to fight the urge to hunt. The moon was high. It would be nothing to escape the confines of this small place. It was a divine night to hunt, but she needed to be human. She needed to be strong. The boys were out scouring the town for even a stray scent of her heir. If they were unsuccessful, they would hunt the scent of Veruca's enemies tomorrow night.

She cleared her mind, forcing her attention back to matters at hand. The next doll needed to be examined. It was a young woman wearing the wolf's head crown, holding a bloody dagger. A second threat, but more personal but still a threat to the pack, she opened the doll and found a few long red hairs coiled in the bottom. A deep inhalation brought her a particular scent, a young woman with some power, not a wolf, a human. She frowned and looked at the doll again. How could one human pose a threat to the pack? The doll represented Veruca, mated and in power. The hairs had to come from a threat to the potential mate, perhaps a rival. Well, that would bear examining.

The last two dolls were both depictions of a woman with a heart in her hands, one human and one wolf, both forms of her desired mate. She opened the first and found a few short auburn hairs, human. She took a deep breath. He smelled appealing, clean. She nodded and opened the other doll. The wolf hairs carried a wonderful scent and traces of the wolf's power. He was strong enough to help Veruca hold the pack. She smiled.

This was a wolf. His power was still growing. This wolf would mature into something more than an available body. He would help her granddaughter hold the pack. He would push them to be stronger and better.

She looked around the small apartment and felt the weight of the task in front of her. Veruca was the key to their survival, without her the pack would wither and die. Their lifestyle would fade away. She put the dolls down and stared out at the moon rising over the rooftops. Never had it been less welcome. The moon should have brought Veruca to her side, the heir to the queen, but it had not.

They would find her, and they would destroy anything in their way. The pack was strong. Veruca would be returned to her. Things would be as they should. There was no other choice. She rolled her shoulders and turned her back on the moon. The lunar pull was strong, but the needs of blood outweighed it. She looked at a picture of her beautiful girl and fought back the fear.