(Mercy Thompson Series)
A/N - Here's chapter two, which I really hope you all like. Ben and Michelle meet for the first time since her capture. Michelle can be a spitfire when she wants to, but that doesn't fly in her new environment. Will these two ever grow to like each other? We'll have to see, won't we? I hope the interaction is believable; I struggled a little with that. By the way, this story takes place after the latest book, Frost Burned, so there is a slight spoiler in this chapter. You have been warned.
Please read and review!
DISCLAIMER: I do not own the Mercy Thompson series or the characters. That honor belongs to Patricia Briggs, and I receive no compensation for this work.
Chapter 2 – Animosity
Two weeks later found Michelle at a wolf named Warren's house, in front of his large television, a controller in her hand. Among other things, Michelle was fond of playing video games, and entertained herself doing so. She had done it a lot back home, before things had gone so awry.
Kyle, Warren's lover, looked on from the couch. He liked to watch her play, which was amusing to Michelle considering how successful he was as a divorce attorney.
She was really quite good, especially at multiplayer mode. Honey, her female guard, had stepped out to run some errands.
Honey hadn't been too excited about being assigned such a mundane duty, but the two females got along very well. At the very least it took her away from the pack for a little while. Too many of them were still walking on eggshells around her ever since the death of her mate not too long ago.
She had told Michelle that it was nice to see a fresh face that wasn't clouded with pity, though she still missed Peter terribly.
Michelle and Kyle had taken to each other almost immediately. He had seen her for what she had been the night she'd arrived, a tired, scared, frustrated new wolf in town whose only sin was being female.
Being so made lone wolf status impossible for her, per the orders of Bran Cornick. As the leader of all werewolves in North America, or Marrok as he was called, his word was law.
Male wolves could be on their own whenever they wanted, and simply needed to petition for entry into a new pack if they felt so inclined. It was really unfair to Michelle that, without any real reason anyone knew of, females weren't afforded the same rights.
So far, none had challenged the Marrok on the issue, and it was unlikely anyone ever would. Aside from his own fearsome abilities, Bran had two sons, both very dominant and very powerful. Every wolf knew of them.
Samuel Cornick, Bran's firstborn, was the doctor in the Marrok's pack before he moved to the Tri-Cities. Now he lived in this area, along with his fae mate, Ariana. He maintained lone wolf status and pretty much came and went as he pleased while working as a doctor at Kennewick General Hospital.
Charles Cornick was one most wolves never wanted to meet. As Bran's Enforcer, Charles usually made an appearance when some unfortunate wolf needed to be disciplined, which usually meant they needed to die.
Though werewolves had come out of hiding little by little, those who could not control themselves were removed in order to keep fear from gripping the humans.
History had proven that scared humans turned into wolf hunters.
That is why Charles was so vital. He was quick, efficient, and able to do what was necessary to protect all their kind. He could also change faster than any other wolf, most likely from his heritage.
His mother had been a werewolf who had carried him to term, something unheard of, as the change was too violent for fetuses to survive. Charles' mother had been the daughter of a Flathead Indian medicine man, and had used her talents to resist the moon until she could give birth.
Sadly, she had died not long after, having used too much strength to carry the pregnancy to term. Charles was the only known wolf to have been born and not Changed. This gave him certain abilities none other had.
For these reasons, he was feared by most, if not all.
It was no wonder Bran had maintained his leadership for nearly two centuries, with such powerful offspring by his side. So the rules had stood firm. Females were to stay within packs.
Once a female lone wolf was known of, it was only a matter of time before she was absorbed into the resident pack of whatever territory she was crossing.
Michelle had just so happened to have been crossing Columbia Basin land. The pack had been on a Run when someone had scented her. They had responded in force, tracking her down.
So Michelle had arrived at Warren's, a dirty wolf smelling of anxiety, exhaustion, and anger. Her escorts, Red, Honey, and Mary Jo had waited outside while Warren had guided her to a guest room upstairs.
There he had shown her to some spare clothing lain out on the bed and instructed her to change, shower, and come downstairs.
Michelle had to admit, it had felt nice to finally have a roof over her head and the prospect of cleanliness. And Warren had seemed even-tempered enough. He was third in the pack, and the Alpha's best friend.
So she had done as she was told, washing thoroughly before stepping out to look in the mirror. She still looked like herself, albeit cleaner, the same creamy, café au lait skin, long, curling, mahogany hair, and dark brown, almond-shaped eyes.
Being a werewolf usually hid any appearance of stress, age, or whatever else life put on her shoulders. Her body's cells continually rejuvenated themselves, all due to her elevated metabolism and accelerated healing.
But she had seen it in her eyes, the tension and guardedness she always felt around other wolves, ever since then.
She had approached the bed and begun to dress. The clothes had been a little big on her but were still accepted gratefully. They had been clean and smelled nice. She hadn't had such in a long time.
Michelle had been running as wolf for over two months when she'd encountered this pack.
It was probably fortunate. Running too long on four legs carried the risk of your wolf nature taking over, which could have disastrous results, possibly ending in her finally meeting Charles. She had shuddered at the thought.
Michelle had eventually come downstairs to a waiting Warren and Kyle. Warren had gone over introductions, telling her who was who in the pack and how she would be expected to conduct herself while Kyle had prepared her something to eat.
She had been aggravated by the talk, both because she loathed pack life, and because she had been through this sort of conversation before.
But she had forgotten all that when Kyle had presented her a rare steak dinner just as Warren had finished. Her wolf had been ravenous, and the protein had helped calm her defensive urge to change again.
Apparently she was to stay with Warren until her pack status could be established. He was dominant enough to keep her under control, and his house was a sufficient distance away that Michelle wouldn't inadvertently annoy more aggressive pack members.
New dominants always caused a stir within packs, and fights sometimes broke out. As an unmated female however, she did not pose a problem to the hierarchy, as females took their rank from their mates.
But there was a possibility that others in the pack could feel threatened. Warren explained that the pack Alpha was Adam Hauptman, and that he was calling everyone together to officially introduce her.
It was taking some time, as many of his wolves were out of town and had to be called back. That meant she was in a sort of stasis until then. She still hadn't seen Adam since that first night. She was told that his mate, Mercy Thompson Hauptman, was pregnant, so he would come around when he could.
Michelle was just fine with that. She could play videogames for hours, and she was beginning to like Warren and Kyle, who did their best to see that she was comfortable. Warren's accent was like something out of a cowboy movie, and was lovely to listen to.
Kyle had impeccable style and kept Warren's house looking spotless. He apparently had his own home, a much more expensive deal. But he preferred to stay with Warren most times.
He had offered to take her shopping as well, stating she needed clothing that complimented her exotic looks.
She really didn't care either way. She never was one too concerned about appearances, and she didn't want to get too close to anyone here. She just wanted to leave as soon as possible. But at least she could pass the time with agreeable individuals while she waited for her chance.
She was just finishing up another round of the game when there was a knock on the door. She kept playing as Kyle got up to answer. It was pretty much his house after all.
She was focused on an online opponent, who was taking cover behind something to avoid her gunfire when a familiar and very unwelcomed minty-musk scent hit her nose.
Michelle felt her hackles rise, immediate animosity rising in her gut. Why the hell was he here?! Both Honey and Warren were watching her, so there was absolutely no reason for him to come by.
She decided to disregard him and keep playing, taking her aggression out on the other players as she shot them down, one by one. At least someone would feel her wrath.
Kyle exchanged pleasantries with him before he walked into the kitchen to speak with Warren. Good, she thought. Let him bother someone else.
She didn't realize she had begun growling as she was playing until Kyle, once again seated next to her, brought it to her attention.
"Is everything alright, Michelle?" he asked. He was feeling a little uneasy, the beginnings of fear spiking his scent. It made sense. She was still a new wolf here. When it came down to it, they really didn't know much about her.
"I'm fine," she said through her teeth, then softened her tone. "I'm fine, Kyle. Really, I am. I just don't like him. I didn't think I'd have to see him again until I was finally introduced to the pack. Guess I couldn't have been lucky for once." She sighed.
Kyle smiled. "Ben has been known to have that effect on people sometimes, especially women." He glanced at the kitchen, where he could hear Warren and Ben talking. "But he's a good guy. And he's come through for the wolves many times. I think you'll like him. You'll see." He got up and went to the kitchen.
"He tends to grow on you," was Kyle's last remark before stepping through the door.
Michelle scoffed. She highly doubted that. So his name is Ben, is it? Whatever. She tried to immerse herself in the game, which usually helped keep her calm. At least he was here to speak with Warren. That should mean he'd stay in the kitchen and leave her alone.
At least that's what she thought, until Ben walked into the living room and took Kyle's place on the couch…right next to her.
Michelle stiffened. Did this guy really just invite himself to sit down right next to her? She looked at him out of the corner of her eye. He was reclining, relaxing even, as if this was commonplace, as if they were friends.
Well, if he wanted to do that, she would ignore him. He was obviously trying to get a rise out of her, and she wouldn't fall for it.
So she played on, killing enemies left and right, feeling more and more peeved at Ben's presence. Finally, he spoke.
"You're pretty good at that, aren't you?" His voice was like syrup, deep, with a thick English accent more like what was heard in some village on the countryside than the more refined tones of London's upper crust.
Even so, Michelle was horrified to feel her body react to it, if only slightly. It irritated her, so she ignored him still. Her skill at the game was obvious. Why ask questions he already knew the answers to?
He stayed quiet for a moment then sat forward a little. "I would never have taken you for a gamer," he commented.
Michelle rolled her eyes, saying nothing. Why couldn't he just go away? Wasn't it enough that he'd trapped her, ensured that she had no possible way of escape? She was here now. Why couldn't he just go about his business and be satisfied?
When he asked if he could play with her, in that damned superior accent of his, she'd finally had enough.
"What do you want?" she grumbled, finally meeting his eyes. He was watching her with a carefully blank expression, his green eyes level. Michelle grudgingly admitted he wasn't bad looking, his short, blonde hair shiny and such a contrast to his wolf's coat.
He had high cheekbones, a strong nose, with a slight shadow darkening his jaw line. His choice of clothing was a pair of khaki slacks and a blue long-sleeved t-shirt, giving him a rugged, sporty appearance. A pair of brown loafers completed the outfit.
Handsome or not, he would always be responsible for her captivity, for her forced integration into this pack. She would never forget that, couldn't forget that.
"I was curious about what our new wolf looked like in her skin," he answered with a slight smirk. His expression made Michelle uncomfortable, and angry. All of this seemed like a joke to him, when her life was ruined.
"You think everything's funny, don't you?" she finally inquired, her game forgotten. "You think I want to be here, dealing with you and your pack wolves?" She set the controller on the coffee table.
"I was minding my own business, and you just had to interfere!" Her frustration was obvious in her tone.
"There was no way we would have let you pass," Ben said, reclining back and throwing his arms behind his head in an insanely relaxed pose considering the anger radiating off Michelle in droves.
He laid his head on his folded hands, closing his eyes. "Females cannot become lone wolves. Standard orders from the Marrok himself. You know this."
He obviously felt she wasn't a threat in the least, to be so blasé in such close proximity of her. And why not? He could take her down whether in wolf or human shape. It infuriated her even more.
"That's why I can't stand packs," she said, looking at her hands. "All you do is take your orders, and follow them, like nice little lapdogs."
She clenched her fists, her nails worrying the palms of her hands. "It doesn't matter if it's wrong or right, you just obey. Little pups running after an Alpha who probably doesn't give a damn about you! It's ridiculous. This pack is ridiculous."
She halted her tirade when he changed his position, bringing his arms forward. When she looked up at his face, she froze. Ben was glaring at her, his eyes bright gold.
"You'd best hold your tongue, girl," he said, his voice little more than a growl. "You don't know what you're talking about." He came to his feet, his gaze heavy on her. She felt his power flow over her like water, making gooseflesh rise on her arms.
Michelle had the sense to keep her eyes averted. She hadn't meant to mouth off, hadn't meant to arouse the nature she had only glimpsed the night she was captured. His beast was always there, just under the surface.
How foolish of her not to remember. It was the sole reason she wanted to stay beneath notice, especially that of the more dominant wolves.
The less she was noticed, the easier it would be to slip away and escape. Letting loose with her temper would only complicate things. She was with a pack now, however unwanted, and had to subdue herself if she wanted to survive.
She had to remember that.
So she was perfectly still as Ben stared her down. Satisfied with her submission, he turned on his heel to leave. "Regardless of your uneducated opinions," he muttered over his shoulder as he opened the door, "you are now a member of this pack. Get used to it, because you won't be leaving."
He closed the door with a slam.
Michelle exhaled, not even realizing she had been holding her breath. She had forgotten how unnerving dominants could be. Michelle herself was dominant, and powerful, but she had no idea what her place would be in this pack. She could find herself at the very bottom of the hierarchy for all she knew.
She would need to mind her manners in the future.
Warren peeked out of the kitchen. "Looks like you two are off to a pleasant start," he quipped.
Michelle just shook her head. If this were any indication, she was just going to love pack life.