The grey wolf circled her slowly, his large paws leaving prints in the crisp snow. Anna remained still and wary, watching the predator close in around her. A breeze carried the scent of spice, city and cat towards her nose and she knew this wolf had been stalking her, and he was a stranger. A new sense of fear spiked Anna's spine and she opened her bond with Charles;
Charles- I need your help, there's a stra-
While Anna was mid-sentence a blur shot out from the trees so blindingly fast that Anna barely had time to register the form of Brother Wolf as he landed big paws on the strangers side and sunk his teeth into his neck with such break-neck speed that Anna was sure he had killed the stranger.
But werewolves are tough and Charles is an experienced hunter, unlikely to kill someone unless he intended to and Anna saw the grey wolf move his limbs weakly but fall still under Charles teeth. Asil came running up after Charles and took in the scene.
"Causing trouble already Anna?" Asil asked her as she looked disparagingly at him. "What has the old boy caught?" He added, cocking his head towards the stranger with mild interest peaking on his refined features, dark eyes glinting.
Anna turned her attention back towards Charles who had dropped the stranger to the snow. The grey wolf stared at the group, making sure not to make eye contact and staying sprawled where Charles had left him. The grey wolf begun to change in front of them on the snow. It took a long time and Asil and Charles waited patiently watching. After about 15 minutes a man with dark curly hair and a bushy beard lay panting, his neck still bleeding but visibly healing quickly.
"I need... the Omega" he panted desperately, clutching at his neck and eyes scanning the trees behind them, as though he were being hunted.
"You need to answer some questions first" Asil said angrily.
"Please! I need help!" the stranger gasped, clearly in desperation. Anna nudged Charles in the side. I think we should hear him out, he sounds distressed.
He tried to attack you, Brother Wolf growled in response.
He's looking for me, it hardly sounds like he was trying to attack me, Anna protested, though she still wasn't sure.
More likely trying to kidnap you, Charles stepped in, Brother Wolf still raging at the thought of their mate being attacked.
Anna stood thinking, it didn't make any sense that if another pack were trying to kidnap her that they would interrupt very public game set by the Marrok of all wolves, a game surely to be heavily guarded.
Just hear him out OK? Anna cautioned Charles, I think there's more going on here.
Charles could barely control the rage that shook his body as he examined the wolf that had been so close to his Anna. It had taken every bit of his control to force Brother Wolf into submission to change back into human. His wolf wanted this strange man's blood, sure that Anna wouldn't be safe until this happened. Charles wanted to protect Anna from knowing his monstrous side- how could an omega like Anna ever understand the bloodthirsty nature of the wolf? Plus he knew how important it was to protect Anna's independent spirit, and she was certain there was something amiss. He would be foolish not to trust her judgement, when she had already proved herself much more adept at reading people than Charles, despite her youth.
So he had forced the change and stood grumpily in Samuels office while Sam looked over the restrained wolf, Anna sitting forwards in a metal chair towards the stranger. Sam and Anna talked in low voices to the stranger while Charles tried to suppress sub vocal growls.
"Why did you find it necessary to contact our omega in such a dramatic way? Surely seeing Bran would have been sufficient?" Sam questioned softly, all professional and Doctor-like in his approach, masterfully hiding his dominant energy.
"I can't afford to let Bran- or you! Know what is happening... please, Anna, only you can help me. Bran can't find out." the man directed his attention solely on Anna, his body language dropping all pretence of fight or energy, only looking helpless and desperate.
Asil and Samuel shared a glance- they were both too fragile at the moment to defy Bran if he ordered them to tell him what was going on. It happened, rarely, that a wolf needed help that Bran could not give- that he could not give leniency for. Therefore his sons Samuel and Charles hid it from him to try and rectify the problem without having to kill. If it ever became a fruitless venture they told Bran and he could sort it out swiftly and deadly. Sam and Asil would have to sit this one out, and they both stood and silently left the room. Samuel trailed behind and gripped Charles on the arm before leaving,
"Whatever the problem is- I can't know about it. Do you're best, but promise you will call Bran or myself if the problem can't be fixed" Samuel says.
Charles gives a curt not, but Samuel continues, "I mean it Charles. Anna will convince you to spare them up until it's too late- it's an omegas curse that she thinks she can fix everyone- you know better, you know when to call it." With that Samuel left his office.
No sooner had Samuel left the room than Charles' phone rang,
"Charles. Anna, Asil and you all left the field. Is something wrong?" Brans cool voice spoke to him from his phone,
"Not yet. But I'm not sure it's something you can help with. Ears can overhear by the way" Charles replies, letting his father now Anna and the stranger are in the room.
Bran pauses, silently weighing up his need for knowledge and obedience against his need to protect all the wolves in his pack- even from himself. "Okay. You will call me if you need me?" Bran adds. "Yes" replies Charles. "And Charles..." Bran adds, almost hesitantly, "remember how young Anna is. She still does not fully understand how a wolf can lose control. Make sure you call me before that happens", and with that, echoing Samuels last words almost perfectly, Bran hangs up leaving the three of them alone.
Charles hangs up the phone then stands in front of the door, leaning against it, and nods at Anna.
"Let's start with names, shall we?" says Anna. "You already know my name is Anna, this is my husband Charles... Bran's son" she adds the 'son' part on hesitantly, but the stranger would probably already know who Charles was. The big scary Indian son of the Marrok was well known.
"So that leaves you.." Anna trails off and gives the stranger a hesitant smile encouragingly.
"I'm Chris, from Louisiana."
Charles cast his mind back to the last time he was with the Louisiana pack- their alpha is Liam, an old wolf who was good humoured and kind. Charles had already met this wolf, Chris, before, albeit briefly. He was dominant, but not enough so that he was within the top 5 of the pack. He sat comfortably at the bottom of the dominant pack ranks, unlikely to ever gain power or be in need of protection, but Charles remembered him all the same- he remembered everybody.
"Liam is a good man" Charles says quietly, giving his nod of approval to Chris' alpha, and a question as to why Chris is coming to them for help instead of his alpha.
"Was." says Chris simply, but bows his head and his hands shake. Charles can tell her is trying to gain his composure before raising his head again.
"He's dead- suicide", Chris bites off that last word with bitterness and even Anna, young as she is, can smell the lie in the proclamation.
"You don't think so?" says Anna quietly.
"Lets just say our youngest, newest member had his eye on Liam's position as alpha since he was brought in. Ungrateful little..." at this Chris trailed off, glancing up at Charles and back, "not that there's any proof... and Damien has been a good leader..."
Damien. Damien. Charles closes his eyes again trying to place a face to a name, but can't. Then he remembers a phone call from Liam he received 12 months ago...
"Hey Boss", says the deep but cheerful voice of Liam on the other side of the line.
Charles very rarely let anyone call him by anything other than his full name, but knew Liam was too good-hearted to try anything with Charles. Plus, Charles liked him. It wasn't often Charles was immediately comfortable around another wolf, let alone an alpha, but Liam was one of the exceptions to the rule. Charles had learnt to trust his instincts, so let the familiarity sink into his being- a friend, a closeness to another being. It made his soul cry out in hunger for this closeness to another person. It also made Charles feel pathetic to admit he craved to be close to another person. His wolf often admonished him for this weakness- We are much too scary for this kind of behaviour, Brother Wolf warns.
"What's news, Liam?" Charles responded, leaning back into his chair and preparing for an evening of talk about pack, hierarchy and how to get Liam's pack to adhere to his wishes. Charles knew that Liam was very adept at running his pack and didn't require Charles' help. Charles suspects that Liam knew how lonely Charles was. That perhaps Liam even liked him, and that's what kept him on the phone talking to him every month about meaningless things. A fact both Charles and Liam ignored as they delved into complicated talk about finance, pack and mates.
"When are you going to find yourself another lady?" Liam laughs heartily. "And I don't suggest you keep running after them fae types. How you ever bed that Dana is beyond me Charles. She gave me the heebie-jeebies. You know she'd soon as kill you as sleep with you?"
Charles laughed openly, "yes I know that Liam, she was as curious about me as I was about her. That's all it was".
Liam says seriously, "but you aren't looking for a mate?"
"Does anyone look for a mate? Usually we just find them. I've been here a long while, Liam. I'm not sure I'm meant to find a mate. I go out and kill wolves that get out of line for a living. What kind of mate could I hope to find? One who only wants me for power and status", Charles opens up to Liam as he hasn't to anyone else except his father. Perhaps it's why Liam isn't afraid of him.
"There are plenty of wolves who find a mate for logic instead of heart" Liam says, and they both know he is referring to Bran, who found Leah out of necessity rather than love.
"I am getting too old for fairy tales of love, is that is Liam?"
Liam laughs again, which ebbs away at Charles anger. "It's never too late for love, old boy. You just gotta' open up that dusty heart of yours" he says in his southern drawl.
"Anyway, I just wanted to put it out there that there's a new wolf joining my pack. Damien, last name unknown. He's a stray. Don't know who bit him, or what his last name is. Luckily one of my submissive's found him digging round a dumpster hunting racoon's last moon else he mighta' seriously hurt someone. Any-who my young one called in some backup to haul young Damien off to the cellar in my basement where we found out some more about him once he calmed down some." Liam says.
"And he doesn't know who he is?" Charles questions suspiciously.
"Nup. And I believe him, boss. Perhaps he's suppressin' some memory or perhaps its the stress of the change. Hell, his change was so violent coulda' been he bumped his head so hard the memories fell right outta there. Look, do me a favour and tell Bran that Damien is a pack member's cousin who was changed by one of us. I think he's a good kid and I'll be able to reign him in and he'll tell us what's happened soon as he remembers. I'll give ya a call if we can't reign him in"
Charles agrees. He knows he shouldn't hide things from Bran, but he trusts Liam and knows he will call it in if he cant control the new pup.
"Well, you make sure you let us know if you find yourself a lucky lady" Liam ends the conversation, and Charles knows he is grinning.
"Will do, Liam. Keep me updated on the pup, yeah?" Charles adds, and Liam agrees. They say their goodbyes, and only 6 Months later Charles meets Anna.
Charles feels a pit form in his stomach- his friend, possibly his only friend, dead because he didn't bother to follow up their conversation. So preoccupied with Anna, he forgot all about Liam and Damien. About his reservations about hiding Damien true identity from Bran And now it has cost Liam. Poor Liam, who was so strong and powerful that he could have never been taken by a new wolf unless he was trying to help him. And now it was too late.
"Do you have any proof that this Damien murdered Liam?" Charles grits through his teeth.
"No." Chris says, shaking his head. "But that isn't even the problem. Liam's daughter... she's 12... she was changed shortly before he died..."
Anna moved her hand to her mouth involuntarily in a gasp and Charles himself was shaken that such a young person survived the change. Let alone a female.
"Why didn't anyone contact us?" Charles asked,
"Because... its Liam's daughter, you know? We practically raised her. And you know what Bran is like and... it's been four months... she still hasn't got control of her wolf yet..."