I stared at the message my dead father had sent to his Alphas for a long time, and reread it more than once before calling Hamish back. When I did, I told him that he would have to come to me to advise me of the Will’s contents, and that I would advise him where and when tomorrow. After that, I went and found a bus where I abandoned the cell phone.
When Mr. Cross, Robert as he wished to be called, came home, I saw him for all of ten seconds as he went straight upstairs to change. He returned twenty minutes later, all smart in his tux, and virtually marched me out to his waiting car. “Moon,” he asked, once the barrier between us and the driver was safely up, “what did you do to Grace?”
“Only what she needed,” I replied, “although I will have to finish it up tomorrow.”
“Thanks, I think, and I’m very sorry about your dad, he was a fine man. Now, I’m sure what you have to say is very important as you came all this way to see me. Let’s hear it.”
“At the same time as my father’s supposed accident, I was the subject of an attempted kidnapping. This was too much of a coincidence. It was a naked power grab by persons as yet unknown. It was not, as you would naturally think, motivated by money, but by power. Robert, how do you think I healed Grace?”
“I’ve absolutely no idea,” he told me, sounding very unsure.
“How long did you know my dad?” It seemed like I would have to help him connect the dots.
He still had no idea, but replied, “About fifteen years. I met him in Vancouver, in my constituency, well what was to become my constituency. He was always very supportive.”
“He still looked the same last time you saw him, didn’t he.”
“I reckoned that with his money he could afford the best plastic surgeons.”
“He never needed a doctor in his whole life, as he wasn’t quite human.”
Since Robert looked at me as if I’d grown another head, I thought it was time to really give him something to see. I had never tried it, but figured I should be able to manage it. I waved my hand in front of his face while it grew fur and claws. “Neither am I.”
If he had been trying to find my second head before, now he was bug eyed. He said nothing for a bit, and then asked, “If not human…?”
I let my hand return to normal, while saying, “Werewolves.” I gave him a moment or two to digest that snippet, but not too long. “There are around twenty thousand of us in the US and Canada, split into thirty packs along with a handful of unaffiliated. That’s why dad owned so much wilderness property. He was by far the most powerful Alpha, and he controlled twelve packs with over half the wolves in North America owing him allegiance. He has no natural successor other than me, a female and a minor. Things could get very dangerous very soon.”
His managed to snap out of his involuntary reverie because his politician’s instincts kicked in. “How many are here in Canada?”
“Six packs in total, broadly speaking there are three, one in each of the westernmost provinces, that my dad controlled, and three others in the east. In all about five thousand people.”
“Why do you need me?” he asked.
“Protection, help and possibly legal assistance. You see, I want to stay in Canada until things are sorted out. Mum’s Canadian, and as my remaining parent, she might be forced by the bad guys to tell me to come to the US, under the guise of attending his funeral, where my abduction would be easy. Now, she only has a Canadian passport, while I have both. Well, that’s just one scenario if my enemies are from my dad’s packs. You see, I may need a bit of official interference.”
That was when the limo arrived at the French Embassy, and we had to get out as a doorman opened the car door for us. Straightening his jacket and tie once he had alighted, Robert said, “With your new blonde hair, everyone who knows me will think you are Jen. Don’t tell them who you really are, unless you have to.” As if I would.
The Embassy was a substantial building set in extensive and well kept grounds that backed onto the Ottawa River. Robert had his invitation to hand, and we were shown into an impressive reception room where there was already quite a throng. No sooner than I had taken two steps inside, I smelled him. There was a wolf around. I knew he wouldn’t try anything here; after all we were technically in France, not to mention with all the VIPs in attendance. I decided to wait and let him make contact.
I didn’t have to wait long, although he waited until Robert had struck up a conversation with someone from the US Embassy before making himself known. “Good evening,” he said, giving me a slight bow, “I am Gerard de Carteret, and I cannot say how thrilled I am to meet you. ” “I cannot say how surprised I am to meet you here, Sir,” I managed. He was of course model handsome, and knew me for what I was. It was time to test myself. I caught and kept his eyes. We stayed like that for a few seconds before I chose to look away, not wanting to make him aware of how dominant I actually was. “You may call me Jen,” I told him.
“Perhaps we can talk in more secluded surroundings Jen,” he suggested, waving towards a doorway leading to the garden. That was definitely a good idea, and I simply started off in that direction without saying anything. Once we were out of earshot of the other attendees, in the middle of a well manicured lawn, I asked, “Which pack?”
“Quebec, of course, and you?”
I took my time, as I wasn’t sure at first as to what was the safest thing to say. “Oregon.” I decided in the end, as truth never hurt, and I wouldn’t slip up if he asked me difficult questions. In any case it was the largest pack. The important thing being to keep my identity secret for the moment. “My condolences then,” he said, “for the loss of your Alpha.”
“Thank you,” I said. There wasn’t much else I could say.
“Now, may I ask what you are doing so far away from home at a time like this?”
“You do realize it was murder, and that things are not exactly what they seem.”
This made Gerard do a double take. “Murder?” he asked, almost incredulous. “How do you know?”
“Let me simply say that the murder,” and I emphasized the word, “was not an event that occurred in isolation.” I let him digest that for a moment, and then added, “I do have a few contacts within my own pack, you know.”
“You must have a position of some importance to be in the loop for things like that?”
“So must you, to be attending a high profile get together like this that’s out of your area?”
He put his arm around my waist, saying, “So you are someone?”
I was surprised it had taken him that long to make a move, as wolves are always very flirty and forward. I didn’t pull away, as he was acting normally for a wolf, and his arm didn’t feel bad at all. It also gave me a better way of evaluating him. He was Alpha, which had been a given, but how strong, and did he know anything about my dad’s demise? I figured that whoever had been after me would have feelers out all over the place. “As you are too,” he replied.
“I expect you are Marcel’s nephew or great nephew.” Marcel was the Alpha of the Quebec pack.
“Great nephew,” he replied, while getting a closer grip on my waist, which had the effect of putting our faces much nearer to each other than before. “You smell extraordinarily enticing, Jen.” he told me.
“Thanks, but I don’t really have time to play right now. Rain check?” I turned my head away to emphasize my point. Hell, he was gorgeous, but I knew plenty of gorgeous, and had been immune to mere looks for a long time.
He smiled at me, not seeming too upset with my off the cuff dismissal of his blatant advances. “You aren’t Jen.” He said, making to steer me back inside. “I’ve met Robert Cross’ daughter and fake blonde hair aside, she isn’t one of us. I believe you are the missing Moon.”
“No,” I replied as we walked back, deliberately being disingenuous. “It’s right up there.” I pointed through the twilight to where the still almost full genuine article was easily visible in the encroaching dusk. He wasn’t put off. “I’m sure you are the brighter Moon tonight.” He squeezed me, and then let me go. “Why…?”
That was when a bullet hit him in the shoulder. We scrambled back inside, since the shot had to have originated outside. Being an Alpha, Gerard was able to act as if he hadn’t been hit, although he must have been in a lot of pain. Once we were back inside, and out of the line of fire, I asked him, “Silver?”
He replied with a slightly forced ‘no’ as he led me through the partying crowd towards a doorway in a corner. “In here,” he said, as we entered what appeared to be the consular section, which was deserted. Finding a bit of privacy in a well appointed toilet reserved for waiting applicants, I asked, “How does it feel?”
“I’ll be fine soon,” he replied, grimacing. “It’s coming out.” I didn’t want to reveal my healing skills to a strange wolf, and in any case, I needed to keep that energy for when I finished with Grace tomorrow. “Good, can I do anything?”
“Stay with me, please, and help me wipe up the blood.” There wasn’t much, as we heal fast, and fortunately the bullet had only gone through his shirt, so that he could hide the evidence by closing his jacket.
Once the bullet was out, and I had tidied him up as best I could, it was time for me to ask the obvious question. “Do you think you were the target?”
“How many people knew you were going to be here?” he asked.
“I didn’t decide until this afternoon, and certainly nobody connected to any pack would have had a clue.”
“Then it was me, but I guess it was meant as a warning.” He picked the bullet up from the basin where I had washed it off. “Otherwise this would have been silver.”
I straightened his jacket, and tried to see how much could be seen with it closed. It was fine. He could always say some red wine was spilled on him if anyone noticed. While he reviewed himself in the mirror, I told him, “I don’t believe in coincidences.”
“What, meeting me?”
I knew he was flirting, probably couldn’t help it. So I ignored it, and said, “Of course it has to be linked to my dad’s death. I figure you were the most exposed of his family, and I presume someone wants Marcel to stay on the sidelines. It has to be an Alpha he doesn’t exactly get on well with. So Gerard, tell me about his not so good friends.”
“Outside of the Oregon group there are plenty of Alphas, but you would have to ask Marcel which ones – if any – he might suspect.”
“That shot might prove to be a stroke of luck,” I told my new friend, because instinct told me that was what he was. “If that shot was a warning to Marcel to be neutral, then I have learned a couple of useful things: that the murderers are worried about Marcel, and they don’t know I know.” I gave him a very pure peck on the cheek. “It also makes me want to trust you. So Mr. Alpha, when can you arrange for me to meet your great uncle?”
“When are you available?” More unconscious flirting, which I treated the way it deserved. Of course he probably intended it. “I have to meet someone in the next couple of days,” I told him, in as dismissive a manner as I could, “but he can wait if Marcel can see me soon.” That reminded me that I needed to set a time and a place to meet with my lawyer.
“How can I contact you when I’ve set it up?”
“Call Mr. Cross’ office, and he will get the message to me.” It wasn’t that I didn’t trust him; it was that I didn’t want to give anyone any information that wasn’t necessary. “Now,” I said, having a last look at his almost healed shoulder. “Do you feel well enough to rejoin the party?” His reply was very wolf. He crushed me to him, and kissed me very firmly on the lips, in a manner showing typically aggressive intent. I chose not to respond. I had too much on my plate for play, and much too much going on to let any sort of Alpha wolf think he could treat me as a temporary distraction. I gave him a not so gentle knee in the tenders, and he let go.
“But Moon, you smelled so enticing,” he moaned. He also appeared crestfallen. “I thought…”
“You thought I was the type of girl who could be easily seduced by a weak Alpha male?”
“Weak?” he spluttered. I was getting to him at last, but not in the way he wanted. “I’m not weak.”
Oh dear, damaged male sensibilities again. It was time for us to finish the staring match I had avoided earlier. He had to know how we stood, so I held him at arm’s length until he dropped his eyes in submission. It hadn’t taken long. I did my best to be conciliatory. “That’s what I said, but only in comparison to me. Did you think my Super Alpha dad wouldn’t have a strong daughter?”
“You poor thing,” he said, still managing to flirt with a wink, “How will you ever find a mate?”