On the ride back home in the limo with Robert a while later, I said, “A man called Gerard de Carteret may try to send me a message through your office tomorrow. I would appreciate it if you could pass it on.”
“You know Gerard?” he asked.
“I think I should be asking you how you know him,” I replied.
“Politics of course,” he told me, flashing a routine smile. “He’s going to be very influential. He’ll be in parliament after the next election when Georges Le Quesne steps down.” That’s when it clicked, and his smile vanished. He took a deep breath. “He’s like you?” My lack of response said it all. “Damn, you just turned everything I know on its head, Moon. I’m going to have to rethink a lot of things. At least we belong to the same party.”
I took his hand and squeezed it. He said nothing for the rest of the journey. When we got back, I got out my last disposable cell phone and called my lawyer, who was still at work on the West coast. “Hamish,” I spoke without preamble, “can you come to Ottawa soon?”
He laughed, “For you I can be there tomorrow.”
“Fine, stay at the Fairmont Chateau Laurier. I’ll call you there tomorrow evening, and set up a time and place for us to meet.” That would work as my dad had stayed there, and I knew they always had an exorbitantly priced suite or two available. The phone ended up on a freight train going west. I would get some more tomorrow.
The next day I finished healing Grace before having a rather decent sized breakfast. When I had finished, both Grace and Robert had questions. “May I see whatever you showed Rob last night?” was Grace’s request, which I managed after ensuring the door was locked. This gave me a chance to see what I could do short of a full shift. It turned out to be rather easy to produce claws or fangs, or both, but I made sure to keep the performance muted, so as not to frighten her.
Robert’s enquiry was more to the point. “So people like you are in positions of political power?”
“Not really,” I told them, trying to set them at ease. “Mostly we tend to get our people in local positions like sheriff or mayor in small towns where we have a presence. That makes it easier to stay under the radar, and to be part of the community. Of course dad supported quite a few human politicians…”
“That’s because he either liked them or their policies. I don’t think he leaned on any of them, did he?”
“No, not with me, at least no more than any of my other donors.”
“Anyway, to answer your main question, I think one of us is in the US congress, but that’s it. Dad just wanted to have an ear in Washington, but as far as I know, he never tried to influence anything. Now if anything were to come up that might affect us directly, that would be different.”
“Your dad kept you in the loop with pretty much everything?”
That was the first really telling question Robert had asked me. I wondered where he was going, so I said, “He told me a lot of things that he thought I needed to know because…” I took a deep breath, as I did not have the luxury of losing it. “…he wanted me to be prepared for pretty much any eventuality.”
That’s when Davis knocked on the door. It was a message for me. A limo would be picking me up in an hour.
Gerard was waiting for me in it, naturally, and patted the wide back seat beside him. I wasn’t up for his flirty games, so I placed my bag down between us. “Thank you, Gerard,” I told him, “I need to nap for a while.” This wasn’t a lie, as healing tired me out, and the payment tended to be exacted somewhat after the event. As I closed my eyes, I caught a slight frown of annoyance cross his face. Clearly he wanted to spend some time getting to know me. I wondered how long I would sleep.
It turned out I flaked for the whole journey to Montreal, which was around three hours, and only woke because Gerard was shaking me. He moved up a lot in my estimation, and he’d earned quite a few brownie points for not disturbing me earlier. The limo had stopped outside a restaurant. I presumed, given that it was almost one o’clock that we would be having a lunch meeting. I could always use food, especially after a healing, so I gave Gerard my most dazzling smile, and said, “Now you’re talking.” Offering me his arm, which I took, he guided me inside where we were immediately met and taken to a large private room. It was crammed with big handsome wolves. It seemed to be a show of strength, or perhaps Gerard had waxed lyrical about my scent, and they were all here for a sniff. Either way, it didn’t bother me. Having faced up to my dad, they were all just any old wolves to me. I was slightly disappointed that there were no women present, but I had no problem picking out Marcel, as the others made it obvious who he was. Wanting to keep this on a human level, I extended my arm for a handshake, which he accepted. I didn’t want any dominance games, and we didn’t get into a staring match. I guess he didn’t want to yet either.
He then introduced his pack, the only significant one being his oldest son, Jacques, who was also his beta. After that he made a typically were statement, “Let’s eat first.” He probably wanted to size me up for a bit before broaching the subject at hand. I could live with that, as I was starving, and it gave me the same opportunity. It wasn’t until we all had our second helpings that he spoke, “My condolences, Moon. I knew your father for over a century. He was a great man and a greater wolf.”
“Thank you,” I replied. “Someone clearly didn’t like him, or what he represented. They wanted me as a pawn, and I need to work out who was responsible, and what their aim is.”
Marcel nodded to Jacques, who said, “Gerard said you wondered if there were any specific packs, or pack Alphas, that we didn’t get along with. There are only two that come to mind. One is dad’s cousin Francois, or Frank as he likes to be known. He runs West Virginia. The other is our neighbor Horace, who started with the Maine pack, but has started encroaching into New Brunswick. He’s an expansionist, and if things keep going as they are, he’ll be on our border in less than twenty years.”
Twenty years isn’t long for us wolves, the strongest of whom can live a very long time. Horace seemed to be the bigger threat. Of course it might be neither of them. “Have either of them got plenty of sons?” I asked.
Jacques laughed heartily at that one, and was joined by almost everyone except me. “Moon,” he said, “Virtually every ruling Alpha has so many sons and grandsons underfoot that they hardly know what to do with them. Your dad was the only one without.” That was the problem with dad’s success over the decades. Stability and breeding without us endlessly decimating ourselves in ritual challenges for mates and dominance. Our numbers had soared. In fact the only real issue we had as a race was keeping our existence secret. The problem now was that someone powerful wanted change, and was prepared to kill to get it. Violence was one of our built-in traits, and had been put on the back burner for a while. That meant there were decades of repressed instinctual frustrations bottled up that were getting ready to explode. “I see,” I told them, “Now does anyone have an idea who might actually have the balls to start this?”
“Every Alpha I’ve met ‘has the balls’, as you so delicately put it,” Jacques answered, “but who might have the motivation is the more relevant question.”
“More to the point,” his father added, “is that you should ask yourself what they would want with you, as you are probably the most dominant female of our kind.”
“The problem,” I told him, “is that they don’t know that. Gerard here,” and I slapped him on his shoulder, “is the only wolf who really knows how dominant I am.”
“He says that you are the strongest female wolf he has met.”
“Well,” I replied, trying to soften the impact, “I guess I am the only one of my father’s daughters he’s met.”
“You are his only daughter.” Gerard said, managing a smile.
“I know, and that is the big issue that confronts all of us now. Who is going to control his twelve packs?” Unsaid were the obvious questions; would they stay together under one leader, would they all go independent, how would that affect the other packs, and what would happen to his assets? “There are a few questions that I can answer now, and there will be a few more once I have seen my father’s…my lawyer.”
Marcel asked, “So what can you tell us now?”
I took my time and stood. Even if I whispered, I knew they would all be able to hear. It was a gesture of dominance. “My father prepared for many possibilities, and this was one of them. Right now I can tell you that if my mother or I were to be killed or mated against our will, then the effect on my father’s packs would be draconian.” “How could he…” Jacques asked before I cut him off.
“By using human law.”
This statement brought dead silence except for the quickening of a few heartbeats. Then Gerard asked, “But what if someone outside his packs took action against you or your mother?”
“Any harm to my mother or me would, amongst other things, mean hunters having clear access to all of my dad’s properties. This would make life so much more difficult for them. In fact I would like you to spread that around. You see my father’s packs would be extremely annoyed with whoever took the action, and would most likely retaliate. Since the harm to them would be so great, the revenge would be appropriately severe.”
That set them thinking, and it was a few moments before Marcel said, “Mr. Hammersmith seems to have thought of everything, not that I would have expected otherwise. Now, I see one huge problem. You are young and have no mate.”
The one topic I really wanted to avoid, but I couldn’t. “Considering my age, that’s not surprising,” I told them, catching both Marcel and Jacques’ eyes, “and I’m not about to be pushed into what would probably be an unsuitable mating by panicking. I really don’t want to be stuck with someone who isn’t compatible for a century or so.” Jacques seemed to want to say something, but I cut him off, both by challenging his dominance, and by saying, “It’s much more important to gather information, and to try and get a handle on what my opponents are trying to achieve.” He dropped his eyes before I finished, and said nothing.
That meant Marcel had to speak. “I trust you will keep us informed of developments, Miss Moon,” he asked.
“Of course,” I replied.
“Then Gerard will escort you back.” That I had expected, since he no doubt wanted the chance to get to know me better. Once we were back in the limo, he didn’t waste any time, immediately moving my purse from between us, and putting his arm around me.
“You need to relax,” he said, “I won’t try anything. I just thought you needed a good hug.” Wow, yet more mature and considerate behavior. He was moving up in my estimation. I relaxed my body against his for a while as my mind whirled. After a while, more probably him giving me time to get used to his scent and body warmth, he ventured, “Marcel told me to offer you my help for as long as you needed it.”
That made me laugh. “At your suggestion, I take it,” I replied, disentangling myself.
He was good enough to look sheepish, or at least as close to that as a wolf could. “He felt that it would be better if he sent me, as I know you better than all his other wolves.” He hadn’t agreed, but he wasn’t denying it either. “I believe,” he continued when I didn’t say anything, “that he felt it important for you to have some help and resources, since right now is a crucial time for our race.”