"What?" she howled and turned her huge head back over her shoulder to look at me.
Suddenly, Shadow's towering form folded over. She gripped her muscled stomach in pain. She made a choking sound and started to gasp for breath.
The spectators began to laugh.
I knew then that Jack must have hit her in the gut while she was looking at me. "Shadow!" I screamed and threw my arms around her.
The pack's laughter doubled and one of them started to mock her in a sing-song voice "Shadow! Shadow! No one's afraid of their Shadow!"
Shadow rested her palms on the ground as she tried to vomit. Dry heaves wracked her massive body and I thought that I would cry.
"Shut up!" I shouted at the others, totally ignoring Jack. He could have been standing right behind me for all I cared. All I could see was my beautiful Shadow in pain.
The others laughed at me and continued to mock and tease. "Shadow's got morning sickness… again!" one laughed.
"Not again!" another chimed in.
"What?" I gasped. I stared as Shadow shrank back to her human-looking self. She wiped her mouth and looked up at me, her brow knitted together in worry.
"I didn't want you to know," she whispered. She gave me an uneasy smile. "It's okay… as long as I stay out of crinos…" she explained. She looked down at her hands and rested them on her thighs. "My body doesn't want that."
"I thought that Jack had hit you," I whispered and touched her tummy.
She smiled and put a hot hand to my cheek. "Jack would never risk hurting my cubs. He would do anything to protect them… and me too," she whispered.
Shadow just shook her head. We were so very different.
I looked over at Jack, now that I could see over Shadow. He had returned to his human shape as well, and stood with arms crossed over his chest. I couldn't tell if the fight was finished or if he was just waiting for Shadow to get out of the way.
"But… I love you," I said and sat down in front of her.
"You know I love you too," she said.
My head felt light. I hadn't. I had just hoped.
I closed my eyes and tried to hold back the tears as more emotions hit me. "Jack is the father, isn't he?" I whispered.
He was the alpha male. What he said was law. It hurt so bad to imagine it, but I couldn't push the images from my mind.
I could see her with her pack while I was at work. She wanted to break away from them so she could be with me, but she couldn't disobey Jack.
I imagined him in crinos, bending her over, forcing her head down with a gigantic, clawed hand. I could see him pulling down her raggedy jeans.
I could hear her begging. She wouldn't disobey, she just asked that it not happen that way. She wanted to feel like a woman, not like an animal, not like a monster. I had felt that in her every time we touched.
That's why I had meant so much to her.
I opened my eyes and looked at her shocked and hurt expression.
"But… you're their father, Alex," she whispered.
"What?" I gasped. "But I'm… and you're… we're not even the same species!"
Shadow shook her head and tried to smile. "Garou are forbidden to mate with other Garou. It's like inbreeding. We have to mate with humans or wolves if we want healthy cubs. I thought perhaps you didn't understand, but I was afraid I'd lose you if I explained it." She snuffled and wiped away a tear.
My head was spinning. I was going to be a father. I put my arms around her and pulled her gently to my chest. "But…?"
"That first night…" she explained, "I wanted you to get me pregnant. I wanted to have pups so bad, before I lost the chance. But then I fell in love with you. That's why I kept coming back, even after I knew."
I felt used. Actually, I didn't know how I should feel. "How long have you known? Did you have a test?"
Shadow grinned at the question. "Two weeks, and no, I don't need a test. The entire pack could smell the change." I could feel my cheeks redden.
I looked up at Jack's impassive face. "I'm taking her back with me," I said, thankful my voice did not break.
"No," he said unemotionally, "you're not."
"Shadow, come run away with me," I begged.
"I can't," she said as the tears began anew. "My life is here. Not behind a white picket fence. My place is here. The pack is my family."
"Marry me and I'll be part of your family too."
She shook her head. "You can't marry a wolf. If the roles were reversed, you would have to raise the child without me."
"You can't keep me away from my own child."
"I have to," she said. "You have no place here."
"Then I'll build a place for me here. I'll build a place for the two of us. I will make us fit."
She just shook her head. "The elders will never allow that."
My mind raced. I could not allow her to deny me this. This was the most the important thing in my life. It was even more important than it had been for me to learn I was a mage.
"You said the elders would never allow me to see the caern, but they did," I told her. "You said they'd kill me, but they didn't. You said you'd kill me yourself, but you couldn't."
I couldn't help but smile.
I thought I saw her smile as well.
"All I need is for you to believe in me, and I will make it work."
"I do believe in you, Alex. I do."
I looked back up to shoot Jack a challenging stare, but the pack was already walking away. I wondered if that meant he approved of me or that he just didn't think I posed a threat.