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The sun was long set by the time I pried my eyes open again.

Joel had the balcon y door open and I could see him standing outside surveying the dark forest. He h ad a pair of pants slung low over his hips, but his muscular back was bare. He l ooked edible. Hesitantly I moved one leg and then the other, the pain I had been expecting wasn't there. I slid out of the bed and walked toward the open balcon y coming to rest beside Joel. "How long were we asleep?" I asked him. "You love, have been asleep almost a week, which is a good sign. It means the ch anging will probably start soon. I'm glad you are awake now. I've missed you." "A week?" I shrieked, "Is that normal?" I prayed I hadn't been pooping and peeing in our bed all week. I'd seen bed boun d hospital patients. It got nasty really quick. I stuttered so bad I could barel y ask him about it. "No," he laughed, "it was more like you were hibernating." Gripping my wrists he pulled me close and pulled my arms around his waist. "How do you feel now?" I felt great. As his lips made a leisurely perusal of my neck I luxuriated in th e feel of him so close. I could hear the wind in the trees outside and I could s mell his heavenly scent. My growling stomach was not to be denied though. Joel released me laughing, "Let me go call for some food." It tasted wonderful and I ate ravenously when the food was brought up. The flavo rs were all so much stronger; I thought they had changed recipes at first. Joel assured me that was the werewolf senses starting to develop. After I ate I was ready for bed again, nearly dropping off in front of the meal. Joel carried my limp body to the bed and curled up next to me. I was asleep in a matter of seconds. When I woke up again it was still dark out and Joel was lying on his back with h is arms over his head. I sat up and looked at him. He was so peaceful and relaxe d. It was very different from the Alpha male he showed the pack every day. I wanted him, needed him desperately. I felt an aggressive form of desire push i nto my mind. I didn't know where it was coming from and I didn't care. This male was here and I was ready. He was mine to use. Slowly and quietly I pulled the sheet Joel was under out of the way. I was thril led to find him naked. His cock lay limply against his leg. That just wouldn't d o. Leaning down I took the tip of his beautiful tool between my lips. I licked and sucked the sensitive tissue. He rumbled a little and threw an arm over his eyes, but didn't rouse. I crawled slowly between his legs and started to lick the sha ft as I ran my fingers around the sensitive head. The organ was starting to thic ken and pulse. Rubbing my nose into his groin I enjoyed his scent, it was strong here. I ran my nose all over him and scented his sac. The skin got rougher under my nose and I licked the tissue, tasting him.

Slowly and carefully I took a ball in my mouth and sucked. Joel groaned slightly . Releasing him from my mouth I licked and nipped at the other side. I was about to give my attention back to his hard cock when he spoke. "Love, what are you doing?" he asked perching on his elbows and looking down at me quizzically. I licked the skin of his balls again and then ran my tongue up his shaft. Engulf ing the head of his cock in my mouth I took him as deeply as I could. Joel fiste d a hand in my hair and dragged me off his tool. It released from my mouth with a soft pop. He continued to pull until my face was level with his. "Not that I'm complaining, but you should be resting. Your energy probably isn't back yet." Suddenly if felt like I was watching this from the other side of the room. Not t hat I cared to stop, but I couldn't have if I wanted to. I was just along for th e ride, someone else was running this show. I felt a low growl rumble in my chest and Joel's eyes widened. I wanted him righ t now. There was now way he was denying me this. I shook my head and his hand re laxed, slipping out of my hair. My hands seemed slightly foreign to me, less dexterous than usual. It took a mom ent, but I used them clumsily to aim his cock. I guided my body down and sunk on to him. I was more than ready for him and he slid in easily. Pushing on his chest I forced him back down to the bed and rode him. I saw drops of blood start to form at the end of my fingers as I dug into his chest. Funny, I'd never noticed my nails were that sharp before. I used him for my pleasure but too soon I felt him start to swell inside of me. I wasn't ready to be done with him yet, so I grabbed him around the throat and s queezed. Blood appeared in tiny rivulets running down his neck. Joel struggled t o breathe and I felt his member relax slightly. Releasing my grip I returned to my prior activity. "Little wolf, if you weren't finished all you have to do is ask," he said slippi ng his hand between our joined bodies. He ground the pads of his fingers against my throbbing center and I exploded. I faintly heard a howl rip through the room as I lay down across his chest. My bod y clenched around him and it felt really good. I continued to glide up and down his shaft while I licked his neck and face. His scent was strong over his neck and loved the taste, licking up the small rows o f drying blood like it was fine wine. My senses couldn't get enough of the poten t aroma. He attempted to roll us and I growled at him. The savage part of me was tamed fo r the moment and I was comfortable. He was having none of it. "I let you have your fun wolf; you don't want to do this." Remembering those new sharp fingertips I drove them into his upper arms as I hel d him down. Let him have a taste of me and then we'll see who's in charge. "Bad move, wolf," he warned.

Joel picked me up off his erection and threw me on the other side of the bed. I landed stomach down and tried to push myself up to my knees. Joel was on top of me, pressing between my legs before I could gain my balance. A low growl left my throat warning him I wasn't interested anymore. I threw my h ead back and the crunch I got was satisfying. Joel grunted and lifted off me jus t enough. I slipped out from under him. Moving across the bed I faced him and bared my teeth. Joel sat in a crouch watch ing me as he wiped a little blood away from under his nose. The tawny muscles in chest and arms were flexed, his whole body tensed to spring. He was a magnifice nt sight. His contained strength was like an aphrodisiac and I crawled toward him. He grow led low in his throat threatening, angry. I still approached him, now I wanted h im. I rubbed my face against his arm following the limb until I was rubbing against his shoulder. My nose ran across his collarbone toward his neck. I was lapping a t the hollow of his throat when I felt a hand come up and stroke my back. He came forward pushing me back, s lips playfully. He didn't stop ver me. My legs spread naturally my thighs. I raised my hands to his face coming level with mine. I nipped at hi pushing until I was on my back and he towered o around him. Crawling over me he settled between his back and he growled.

"Be a good wolf and keep your claws up by your head," he said looking down at me pointedly. Raising my arms above my head I whined low in my throat, I needed him again. Tha t magnificent bronze body settled slowly, pressing me further into the bedding. He teased me as his enlarged organ slid against my weeping slit. Although I trie d, I couldn't capture him, so I moved my hand down to assist him. A low growl rose out of his throat as he eyed my stray limb. I placed it back ab ove my head and waited. I couldn't express my need. I wiggled my hips enticingly underneath him, planted my feet on the bed, and ground against him. When he wou ldn't move I started to reach with my hand again and found my wrists pinned to t he bed by one of his. A glint came into his eye as he reached between us with his free hand and aimed his thick pulsating length. "Do you need this?" he asked. A sound of encouragement escaped my throat. If I could have formed words I would have been begging. With a powerful thrust he entered me and then lay still on top of me. I groaned and writhed beneath him, trying to make him move. "No, little wolf, I'll move when I'm ready," he stated flatly. "You denied me an d raised your claws to me." Joel was heavy and used that to his advantage, I could barely wiggle under him. The hand that wasn't restraining my hands he wrapped in my hair, anchoring me to the bed. I couldn't move. Until he decided to do something, I would just lay th ere full and horny. He was really pissing me off now. I growled at him and showed teeth. He growled

back, shifting his face slightly so his elongated canines were directly in my vi ew. I remembered watching Joel fighting Erik in the clearing. It felt like I was wat ching the fight with new eyes. It struck me the wolf mere inches from my face co uld be very violent. I started to feel uncomfortable with my position. My neck was exposed the way I was being held and I didn't like it. I couldn't mo ve my head to stop baring it. My wild side panicked when Joel brought his teeth down over the soft flesh. I tried to wiggle away, but he just increased the pres sure of his jaws. Some deep instinct told me to stay still, so I did. We lay like that for what seemed like forever. He would move just enough to keep himself hard and stimulated, but otherwise just pinned me to the bed. His domin ance was overpowering. Something inside me melted and I accepted it. I was his; I couldn't deny him and I wasn't supposed to hurt him. Relaxing underneath Joel, I waited patiently. Slowly he started to move his hips rocking gently as he stared down into my eyes . He must have sensed the change. "Do you understand now?" he asked slowly picking up a rhythm. I grunted my answer into his neck laving the skin with my tongue. He released my hands and I slowly moved them down to his sides, cautious that I wasn't using my claws on him. He continued to rock above me as I lifted my legs and wound them around his hips . I tasted his neck kissing and biting the skin, enjoying his salty flavor. Some thing about the way he smelled and tasted was intoxicating. Without notice Joel pulled almost all the way out then bottomed out with a quick thrust. The motion took my breath away and I raked my nails down his back as I arched my own. The scent of his blood filled the air. He never stopped thrusting as he moved his palm to the side of my face. "Look at me," he commanded. I did and watched him carefully. Some new part of me wasn't sure how dangerous t he male on top of me was. "The intention makes a difference, my wolf. Can you understand that?" My tongue flicked out and moved against the corner of his mouth and he smiled. W hatever part of me was in charge right now understood. I moved my hands to the nape of his neck and wound them into the hair there. He continued to rock forcefully into me and I felt my release building a second tim e. I came as he did, once again howling my release. When he was done, Joel slipped off of me and pulled my back flush to his chest. "You're a fierce little wolf, aren't you?" he asked holding me tightly and nibbl ing on my neck. When I didn't answer he chuckled and relaxed behind me. I wasn't sure what to think of what had just happened, but at least Joel didn't sound upset. When I remembered how to talk, I'd have to ask him about it. For no w, drowsy and sated I lay in his arms.

Slumber was coming quickly, but in that netherworld of sleep and wake, I had ano ther surprise. I could see my wolf and she could see me. It felt like we were ci rcling one another, getting closer and closer, but never quite touching. I felt the wolf move under my skin. She would almost ripple the surface, only to draw herself back, unsure how to go further. I was solid, she didn't quite know how to make herself known. This body was both of ours now, but she was unsure how it worked. Everything abo ut me felt alien and strange to her. I felt her sifting into my mind attempting to know what I knew. She wanted to know more about all of this, but this last ex perience had been intense. We were both so tired and this was all so new. It was the first conversation we had and it was very basic. Rest now, we agreed. It was my last memory before obl ivion claimed me. 'This is getting old,' I thought to myself as I woke up with sun streaming throu gh the windows. I didn't know how long I had been out, but it felt like a really long time. My body was stiff and felt ill used. I pulled myself out of the bed and headed for the bathroom, but stopped short. A ttached to my ankle was a thick silver manacle and chain. Inspecting the item cl oser I realized it was different from the first one. I wasn't entirely sure I kn ew how to open it without a key. I tugged at the chain with all my strength but it didn't break. I growled and le t out an unearthly howl. My feral nature was rising inside of me, furious at thi s turn of events. Breath rushed out of me in rapid little pants and I felt like something bad was going to happen if I didn't get control. Instead of focusing on the chain, I focused on me. My bladder was full and my sk in felt sweaty. I trudged to the toilet and then moved into the shower. Purposef ully ignoring the device on my ankle I hoped I'd feel better clean. I tried to spend my time in the shower thinking of ways to torture Joel. My skin was a major distraction, though. I was so sensitive. I stopped thinking about w anting to hurt him and started thinking of ways I wanted to fuck him. When I was done and drying myself I couldn't stop rubbing my hand between my leg s. I wrapped a big fluffy towel around my body to stop my own hands from wanderi ng. I was so horny. When I walked back into the bedroom I stopped short. Katrina was dutifully chang ing the sheets. "What are you doing?" I asked her quickly followed with, "Hey, I can talk again! " "You're changing, that's normal. The wolf has difficulty mastering speech and un til you fully change you won't be able to communicate telepathically with anyone . It can be totally frustrating." "Like this one week I couldn't talk at all, like seriously the whole week. Saul was so not helpful cause they hadn't had to change a human in a really long time and he had forgotten." "So the Alpha told me to stay with you while he has some stuff to do. He also to ld me to clean things up a little if you get up, 'cause you like things clean. O h, are you like really horny?"

The woman talked like a train wreck and I could barely follow what she was sayin g. I also realized I was rubbing my hand between my legs like a freak. "Oh Katrina, I... I can't the feelings so he wasn't I'm so sorry. I don't know what's gotten into me. I'm so upset and control it," I was so frustrated I was ready to scream. The chain, it was all just too much. In addition, Joel had left Katrina here, coming back.

"It's okay," she said, "that's why I'm here. It's also why he chained you back u p. He said your wolf totally jumped him and got aggressive. He won't let the Ome gas come in here. He's afraid she'll attack them or fuck them. You know, whateve r." "Uh, huh," I mumbled getting distracted by the fire burning in my nether regions . I really needed Joel. Even if I did really want to kill him, I figured I'd jus t have my way with him first. Before I knew it Katrina grabbed me and threw me on the bed. My anger flared mom entarily, but receded quickly. As I struggled to sit up Katrina knelt between my spread legs and started to lick. Then I did not want to stop her, ever. She cou ld keep doing that until time ended. Gently she ran her nails along the inside of my thighs and she lapped languidly at my entrance. "More, please," I whispered pulling my towel open and touching my erect nipples. I was on fire as I ran my hands down my own body and opened my lower lips to he r searching tongue. She kissed and nibbled at my clit until I thought I would explode. Never taking the little nob in her mouth. She never did enough to leg me come before returnin g to tease the entrance to my slick channel. "Please," I begged her and felt her giggle against my thigh. "Katrina, you're dr iving me nuts!" "I live to serve, Madam Alpha," she said sucking the sensitive little nob into h er mouth. Did she ever. She tongued me until I came several times, eventually losing her o wn clothes and placing her dripping pussy over my face. I drew lazy figure eight s across her clit with my tongue and she went wild on top of me. Her salty sweet cum ran over my lips and I thought I would drown in it. We ended up curled up o n the bed together, naked and sweaty, after several hours. My stomach made it's demands known in a none to subtle way and I was relieved Ka trina had come prepared. She had a cart loaded with food waiting in the main roo m. She wheeled the trolley into the bedroom we sat on the balcony to eat. The sun h ad set while were occupied in the bed, so we didn't even bother to dress. Oddly, I wasn't cold. My breath misted in the air, but I didn't feel uncomfortable. It was just peaceful and quiet. "How come I'm not freezing cold sitting out here?" I asked Katrina. "You are starting to shift. We aren't as sensitive to cold as humans are. During this time you'll start to exhibit more and more qualities of the wolf. At first , it's like she kind of invades your mind. Shifting completely will be difficult

, Alpha Latro will teach you how to do it. For now you may grow claws or hair at odd times, but it takes time and training to learn to hold the other forms." There was a measure of comfort with that answer. It explained the attitude and w icked claws I'd had with Joel the other night. We ate quietly and I watched the woods hearing the occasional howl drift from th em. I could imagine how the frosty ground would feel sliding under my feet. As I looked at the forest, I thought grudgingly of the chain on my ankle. I tugged a t it experimentally. "Oh no you don't," warned Katrina watching me. "That chain won't be easily broke n and I'm not taking that thing off of you. If you jump from this balcony you'll just end up dangling. I don't think the Alpha would be very happy about that. H e left strict orders about where you are supposed to go and not supposed to go w hile he was gone." "Gone? Gone, as in not in the den? Where is he?" "Big meeting with the other pack leaders. He left yesterday, not too happy about it, either. He didn't want to leave you, but it was necessary. The whole witch thing. He took all those spells she made with him. They are meeting to talk abou t what the packs should do to protect themselves," Katrina answered me. I was beyond upset. Angry tears started to well up in my eyes and I dropped the roll I had been nibbling on. Katrina noticed and started to wipe the tears away. "Don't be sad, it'll be fine. It's the change making you so emotional, you'll be all right. Shawna is coming up and we're going to stay with you." She kept talking but all I could think was that he had left me chained up like a dog for who knew how long. For some strange reason that equated into him not lo ving me. He may never come back for me. Although I knew rationally that wasn't true. It bothered me immensely and I bare ly noticed when Shawna came and they put me back to bed. As they stroked my back and shushed me I curled up into a ball and panicked. I had to get off this chai n. An annoying ringing started somewhere in the distance and I just wanted it to st op. I swung a hand out to hit the noisemaker, but was restrained by Shawna. "It's your cell phone. I'll get it," she said as she flipped it open. I couldn't stop panting and lay miserably on the bed with Katrina still trying to soothe m e.

"Good evening Alpha Latro, she woke up this afternoon, but she's not doing well right now... Yes, sir, I understand, I'm not sure what has her so upset. Would y ou like to talk to her?" through my fog I realized the phone was being placed at me ear. "Love, what are you thinking? You know I wouldn't have left if I didn't have to. Please calm down. I'd come back right now if I could. Do you understand?" "Yes, it all makes perfect sense," I said sarcastically, "but I still miss you a nd I'm so horny. I just had sex with Katrina. Do you hate me now? Why did you ch ain me up again?" My emotions were on a roller coaster ride.

He ignored my comment about the chain and focused instead on Katrina. "Relax, yo u know that's why I left you with her. I know you enjoyed it, didn't you?" he as ked, playing with me. "Not the point," I screamed at the phone, "you keep chaining me up and I didn't do anything wrong this time!" The chain really bothered me. I felt trapped. "Your wolf is rather unpredictable my love, I didn't want her to go looking for fun while I was gone." "Where would I possibly go?" I cried, "I'm surrounded by your pack and miles of forest. Please take this thing off my leg. I hate having it on," and I pulled th e pity card. "Am I not good enough to be your mate?" He sighed into the phone and said, "Give Katrina the phone." I figured he was sick of me. I didn't listen to his conversation with Katrina I just burrowed down in the bed and tried not to concentrate on the heavy weight o n my leg. When he got back I was letting wolf out. He needed a good ass kicking for this. "Seriously, Elizabeth, you better behave. I know you like to push his buttons, b ut he will lose his mind if something bad happens to you," Katrina said as she u nlocked the cuff on my ankle. Joy overcame me and I hugged her promising to be good and stay put just before s leep took me. The next several days took on a weird pattern of waking very late in the afterno on, eating, and sleeping. My schedule was like a teenager's again, go to bed at just before dawn and wake in the afternoon. My sexual appetite had also changed. If it wasn't for Katrina I would have compl etely lost my mind. She did everything she could to keep the tension from overwh elming me. It was exhausting for both of us. As I lay partially sated on the bed she crawled beside me panting, "The other Be tas would be happy to serve you, Elizabeth. Alpha Latro doesn't mind if you take other women to your bed." "I know," I told her sadly, "I'm just still getting used to all this and I feel comfortable with you." She beamed at the compliment and snuggled next to me. I knew she was right, but I knew who I needed. The Beta females were not going to satisfy me, because who I needed wasn't in the den. I wanted Joel and I wanted him badly. Every time I slept, I dreamed of him. He w as in almost every waking thought. I ached for him sexually and otherwise. It would have been nice to have him close while I went through the beginnings of the change. Occasionally I grew my claws back or a light sprinkling of hair ado rned my chest and stomach. The wolf seemed to fade in and out of my conscious mi nd, like she was testing the waters. I watched myself make the weird changes wit h trepidation, the end result still freaked me out. At least I did have some contact with my mate. He would call anytime he got a fr ee minute day or night. I spoke with him whenever I could. My wolf wasn't able t o talk and when she was in charge my vocal cords were near frozen. Sometimes I j ust ended up growling into the phone at him. Those were hardly satisfying conver

sations. Growling, for him, was better than nothing. He couldn't hear my thoughts anymore . Until the wolf fully asserted herself, I was a telepathic dead zone. With all the changes, my life had become rather bizarre and I started to get a l ittle stir crazy. I eyed the forest frequently, but remembered my promise. Besid es that someone was always watching me. Joel had left a nearly round the clock g uard of female Betas that usually sat with me. It made our rooms seem like a pri son cell. I was surprised when I woke up early one morning and found the bedroom empty. I looked around and didn't see anyone, even Katrina was gone. The doors to the balcony were open and sun was just peaking into a grey sky. I l ooked out over the forest and wondered what it would feel like to run through it . I was on the ground heading for the trees before I realized what was happening. 'No, turn back,' I thought to myself and then realized I wasn't in charge. I had just jumped from a third story balcony without a problem. The wolf was in charg e. My wolf was excited to finally be in the forest. I could feel her stretching out as I ran. Trees sped by me in a blur and I sucked in lung full after lung full of the clean fresh air. In reality all of me felt relaxed and refreshed to be ou t here. The rational human part of me still panicked and tried to get through to the wol f. He wasn't in the den. I wasn't supposed to leave. When he found me, he'd put me back on that damned chain. The wolf ran for miles seemingly unperturbed by my commentary. He could try to p ut her on a chain, if he dared. She had been kept in that little room for too lo ng. She would go back when she needed to rest, for now she wanted to check out h er territory. I looked down at my feet and they were definitely human, with a small spattering of white wolf fur. I had claws on my hands, but they still looked mostly human. It struck me that I was partially shifted into the wolf woman. How odd I must l ook. I begged my wolf to watch out for people, they could be dangerous. I felt h er agree and we scented the air carefully. I ran until I couldn't smell the other wolves from the den anymore. I could sens e from the wolf she knew exactly how to get back home. A stream babbled across t he forest and I stopped and took a long drink from it. A still pool of water sat near the stream and I looked into it. It felt like I was looking through someon e else's eyes at my own face. My eyes glowed golden and thick white hair covered everything. I still had my sa me jaw line. A muzzle would look better with all the fur. Without further though t a snout started to grow. It was the oddest sensation as my jaw elongated into that of the wolf. I was so excited and the changes kept happening. Looking into the pool of water beside th e stream I saw a wolf's head where mine had been minutes before. The ears were so much more effective, I could hear much better. The nose had als o improved my sense of smell. It wasn't very surprising when I looked down and s aw clawed feet covered in fur.

I was shifting and it felt wonderful. Walking around as the wolf woman fit like a second skin. It was like finding a part of myself I'd never really gotten to k now before. I wanted to try out these new attributes and the wolf relaxed in mind to let me experience her the way she had been experiencing me. I wondered about shifting c ompletely, but I was too excited to do that right now. Instead, I scampered arou nd and crawled up a small hill to look at the valley below. I smelled something tasty and heard a faint fast heartbeat. My stomach growled. I felt the wolf's instincts for hunting in my mind. Stalking quietly, I came across a rabbit. I was on it like lightening. A quick c runch to the neck and I had a wonderful meal. Some part of me wondered if I should be grossed out by my appearance and my acti ons. I wasn't though. I was the wolf and I was happy. The sun was rising higher in the sky as I bolted through the hills and valleys. I scrambled up trees and over rocks. My legs were powerful and I bounded through the forest with seemingly limitless speed. As we exercised physically, I started to blend with the wolf. Soon we were think ing in tandem, opening ourselves to each other completely. It was so much more c omfortable that way. I continued to test my strength and was very pleased. My claws were sharp, my le gs were powerful, and my reactions were quick. I wasn't going to have to be afra id anymore and for that matter neither was Joel. I briefly wondered about my mate and why he hadn't sent a search team to come ti e me back up. It would be fun testing my brawn against his Betas. Let them try t o put me back on that chain now. As I passed through a dip in the land and started up another rise the scent of m ale wolf saturated the ground. I was curious. The smells from the den had died o ut a long time ago. If this was the search party they should have come from the other way and if this wolf was pack they had wandered far. The scent of female wolf started to mix with the male scent. I sensed sex, punge nt fear, and the female's blood. It was a weird combination and not right at all . Moving quietly through the brush I saw her. Emily, the sweet young girl from the kitchen, tied and unmoving on the ground. She was naked and bleeding from multi ple cuts. Her face was bruised and battered. Two wolf men stalked the ground aro und her circling her like a fresh kill. I screamed for Joel in my mind while concentrating on the scene before me. I pra yed he could hear me in this form. I had shifted; I hoped our bond worked again. I heard one word come back to me like he was whispering it from a distance, 'Ru n.' I looked at the carnage before me and knew who these wolves were. They were the last of the renegades, the ones that had taken me twice. Probably the ones respo nsible for my near poisoning. Now they were hurting a member of the pack, my pac k. I wasn't going to run. I wasn't going to be stupid about it either, I would use stealth and then the wi

nd shifted. Two heads popped up and turned to stare at me. My white coloring did not camouflage me well without snow. I bared my new teeth and growled. Joel's voice bellowed into my head, 'Run, I wi ll send help to her. Save yourself. RUN.' Oh, hell no, the wolf and I agreed. 'I am the Alpha here, Emily is my responsibi lity,' I thought back to him. I had to stay and fight. 'You are an Alpha in title only, mate,' he screamed into my mind, 'you have neve r fought a werewolf. Turn and run while you still can!' His assessment was amusing to say the least. I was an Alpha, whether he knew it or not. My wolf seemed quite sure of that. 'You picked me,' I thought back to him, 'you already saw it there.' 'You do not know how to fight a were wolf,' Joel called sounding desperate. 'Run now.' I would just have to ignore him. The wolf men came up the hill toward me. I held my ground and growled my displea sure at them. Higher ground was definitely better in a fight, so I stayed and wa tched them. I remembered seeing them at the cabin; then I had thought they moved with grace. Through the wolf's eyes their movements seemed choppy and uncoordinated. I chuc kled internally at the pathetic show they were putting on for me. It would be th eir last. I toyed with the rogues, testing my prowess. It soon became a game; striking out swiftly and then retreating before they could retaliate. They were not organize d and did not attack together. It was no wonder they did not fit in well with th e pack, they didn't work well as a team. A quick series of swipes from deadly cl aws ripped the slowest one's head from its body. The other one completely shifted to his wolf form and came at me. I side stepped faster than he anticipated. A large chunk of his hind leg was removed with a de ft move of the wrist. He howled in pain and turned to come at me again. My aggressor had larger teeth in his form than I had in mine. He came back plann ing to use them. I felt myself rearranging and landing on all four paws as I shi fted completely. As a human I would have been uncomfortable on four legs, but as a wolf I felt mo re stable. I braced for the next attack teeth bared. The grey wolf came at me with malicious intent. I moved with amazing speed to av oid his bite. Circling rapidly my teeth tore into him and his blood coated my to ngue. At the same time, I felt a slight pain where he ripped my ear. That concen trated my focus. The time to play with this idiot was over. It was time to end this. I sought his neck; I longed for the satisfying crunch of breaking those bones. With the goal firmly in mind I forgot about human civility. I went for the kill without remorse. In the end he never saw the lightening fast move that brought m y jaws around his neck. His bones snapped like loose tinder. I rearranged my jaw s and the sinew of his throat ripped away. His body fell to the ground unmoving

and I celebrated with a long howl to the sky. 'Joel, I won,' I called out to him shaking out my coat. 'There may be others,' he warned. I listened carefully and scented the area, but I only detected the three wolves I knew about. 'No,' I called back to him, 'it was just them.' 'Walk the perimeter,' he commanded. I did as he said to keep him happy. 'Just them,' I repeated. A flood of emotion washed over me, there was his love and overwhelming relief. O n another level entirely I was aware of his anger at me for not listening to him . He was beyond incensed. I would have to worry about him later. Emily moaned softly from the valley floor and I padded silently down to her. I a pproached Emily slowly, she was injured. Her reactions may be unpredictable. Sniffing around, I noted her hands were bound with a strong coarse rope; it had cut into her tender skin. Her legs were bound separately on the ground staked fa r apart leaving her exposed and vulnerable. I whined my displeasure. Circling up by her head I couldn't see any injury that would be life threatening . She was laying on her chest and I used my nose to check underneath her. Again, nothing life threatening I could detect. Instinctively I knew how to heal her and with tentative laps of my tongue I work ed my way up her legs. Skin closed and bruising lightened with each stroke over her flesh. When I reached her sensitive areas I had to hold back a growl. She was ripped an d torn in both her holes. Used by these wolves until she probably screamed for m ercy. Focusing on healing her I licked and cleaned, closing the wounds. I knew t he mental wounds would be far deeper. Continuing up her back I moved my tongue over bruises and bite marks. I was frus trated by the rope on her arms, but in this form I had no hands to remove it. I worked around it as best I could. Lovingly I ran my tongue over her exposed neck and face. I wanted her to wake up . She moaned a little and moved, wincing as unseen wounds were moved in the dirt under her. I had to undo the rope and turn her over. I would need hands for that. My experi ence with shifting forms was limited. I had been so excited at the stream I coul dn't really remember what I did to make it happen. I was so keyed up now I could n't seem to manage it alone. 'Joel, please help me. I don't know how to do this,' I called out to him. I trie d to send images of Emily, of her injuries, and of how she was bound. I can't sa y I really expected a reply. 'You would be safer working slowly with your teeth in the wolf form. Please, con tinue to be on the alert for other wolves,' he warned.

He sounded monotone in my head. If he was speaking to me in person I got the fee ling he would be using that too calm voice I had heard far too often. To appease him I tried to stay as the wolf, but the frustration of working knots with my teeth was immense. Quite suddenly my human hands reached forward to und o the knots and I found myself kneeling beside Emily. I hadn't really meant to s hift, but it had happened. Emily was soon unbound and rolled over. She left a bloody mess on the ground whe re she had been laying. I was horrified at the look of her front, bitten and bru ised. My hands grew claws and I felt myself shift back to the wolf woman. It was based on pure anger and adrenaline. I rose up on my legs and howled my frustration ov er the hills. She was mine to protect. A female in my pack, the evil doers had g otten off too easy. As I knelt back down I saw two terrified brown eyes staring up at me. I didn't k now if I could talk in this form. It seemed it would be difficult with the muzzl e, but I had seen Joel do it. At first I tried to speak, but I couldn't quite ma nage it; the words came out too garbled. Instead I slid my tongue out and ran it across her belly healing a wound. "Madam Alpha?" she asked reaching out to touch my muzzle. 'Of course she would know how I smelled,' I thought internally. Tenderly I laved her chest and neck. She lay silently accepting the ministration s tears quietly rolling down her cheeks. When I was done I sat back and looked a t her. I wanted desperately to talk to her about what had happened. The ground came toward me and I watched it, apparently I grew quite a lot when I shifted. My hands shrunk as the fur receded. I sat down heavily beside Emily ge tting reacquainted with my human body. Emily sat up beside me tears drying on her cheeks. She took in the scene around us and glanced up at the hill I had come down. The bodies of the two werewolves still lay in mangled piles. "They are both dead?" she asked quietly. "Yes, they can't hurt you anymore. Are there others?" "No one else, just them," she whispered. I put an arm around her as she pulled her knees up and hugged them. We sat like that for a long while. The sun was getting lower in the sky and a soft breeze wa s blowing. Except for the carnage, it was a peaceful place. "Come," I said to her, "we should go back to the den. Your family must be worrie d." She got up slowly and we walked up the hill. She took a last look at the piles o f bloody flesh as we passed them. I noticed her shudder and my heart ached for h er. It would take her a long time to heal from what they had done to her. We walked as humans, which probably wasn't the quickest way home. I was just too tired to think about shifting again. It seemed to take a lot of energy. I tried to stay alert to our surroundings. I knew Joel had probably sent out a party to

come find us. I didn't want to be surprised by them, my wolf had an aggressive streak. "I put it in your rooms, ma'm," Emily said as we walked along. I assumed I had n ot heard the first part of the statement because I was too busy listening for ap proaching wolves. "Put what?" I asked her keeping my eyes on the walk ahead. "The poison, ma'm." I stopped dead in my tracks and turned to face her. I felt my wolf start to take over and I didn't want to stop it. Before I knew it I had shifted into the wolf woman and was holding Emily off the ground by her throat. Blood ran in thick ri vers from her neck. I was going to tear her to shreds. Emily did not fight me. She let my claws dig into her neck. In fact, she threw h er head back and bared it to me. I dropped her to the ground disgusted. This was n't a battle, it was an execution and I felt that I was being used. Something was afoot here and I needed a form that could talk. My frustration at the wolf's inability to communicate was palpable. Emily must have felt it. She c owered in a lump in front of me and bared her neck again. Fur receded from my limbs and I got my voice back. I was too angry to use it for a moment. "Why would you do that?" I growled at her. "Because Tabor asked me to do it," she said without any emotion. "He was the one whose head you removed," she added gesturing back the way we'd come. "Do you still want me dead?" I asked stoically. "I never wanted you dead, Madam. I didn't know what was in the bottle. I thought it was something bad. That's why I hid it in the back of the Alpha's cupboard, but you still found it. My life is forfeit. It is yours to take." As she finishe d her statement she kneeled before me and bared her throat.

It felt like the wolf was pacing in my mind, I wanted the girl's blood. I rememb ered I had just saved her. A large part of me wondered why Emily had chosen to t ell me this. If she had not said anything it would not have been discovered. Joe l had already told me he couldn't figure out who put the bottle in his rooms. "Why would you do that?" I asked her. "It doesn't matter, Madam. My life is forfeit. I do not deserve to live." "That is my decision to make," I stated with finality, "not yours. Why would you put something you thought was harmful in your Alpha's rooms?" I wasn't sure whe re my self assurance that I deserved to make that decision came from, it just wa s. "Tabor told me to do it," she repeated keeping her eyes closed and her bloody th roat bared. "That is not an answer I will accept. Why would you do something like that? I wa nt to know everything right now."

"Tabor said he loved me, he said he would protect me. No one else was interested in me. At first, it was nice. He treated me good and then he changed..." she tr ailed off fresh tears running down her face. "Everyone said he was bad news, so I never told anyone about us. He said if we k ept our relationship a secret it would be better. I did everything he asked. He told me we would be mates, he just couldn't commit like that yet. He shared me w ith his friends, although I didn't want to. He beat me. I have been so ashamed." "What kind of thing am I that my mate would do that to me? I have no value, Mada m Alpha. Be kind and end my life now, before I have to face my family. They didn 't know anything about this, let it end with me." I was shocked and paced back in forth in front of Emily. I knew about battered h uman women, I'd seen it before. Now I was confronted with a battered werewolf. S he had committed an egregious crime, one that probably would result in her death and the death of her family. 'Only if you allow it,' the thought came into my mind from my alter ego. That pa rt of me was angry and frustrated. My mixed human opinion on the subject of Emil y's guilt seemed to be confusing my wolf. The part of me that was wild and wolven wanted to kill the female in front of me . The threat had to be destroyed as a warning to others. There were no second ch ances. The girl's life was the fine for challenging the Alpha. I wasn't all wolf, though. My human side had seen abused women do things to appe ase their abuser. Emily had made a mistake and tried to atone for it. Forgivenes s was still an option. The wolf did not understand forgiveness. I felt her melt into my mind trying to wrap her brain around the idea. It was human logic, based on the complicated inn er workings of a human society. The wolf sifted through my understanding of the werewolf pack. Forgiveness would not be an obtuse concept to them, it may be acc eptable. Emily was weak, allowances could be made for her frailty. The wild side of me re lented. This girl was no threat and killing her would not be satisfying. I rubbed my hands on my face. Now I just had to convince Joel. Emily made a stup id choice, but she tried to pay for it. That should carry some weight. "Get up, we're going back to the den." I motioned for her to get up and walk. "Madam Alpha, my punishment ..." "I forgive you. I will talk with Alpha Latro on your behalf." Talk about making promises you can't deliver on. Tears filled Emily's brown eyes and she started to cry again. "How much more did you do to help them?" I asked. "As little as I could," she sobbed. "Tabor called me almost every day. They want ed to know what the Alpha was doing to protect you. I never told them about the training. That's what made them so angry. They didn't know you had gotten strong

er." I ran through the whole thing in my head again from the beginning. She had walke d through the entire suite with a bottle of poison and nothing had stopped her. Nate had told me the witches put protective wards on the Alpha's suites. I wonde red if those were as worthless as the rest of their spells seemed to be. "Are all the witch's spells useless?" I fumed out loud. "How were you even able to put the poison in our rooms? Are all the witches in on it?" "I don't think so, ma'm," she sniffled. "Tabor told me afterwards that the reaso n they had me place it was because I didn't have any ill feelings toward the Alp ha. He said that the wards picked up on intentions of wolves wishing to do harm to the rooms' occupants." She continued to speak, but sat heavily on a boulder beside us. "That's when he told me I had to keep helping them. Tabor said if I turned them in he would tell the Alpha I was the one that tried to poison you. He, he said..." she started t o cry again, "that the Alpha would kill my whole family. They would all die beca use of me." I stood and watched her quietly. The gouges I had left on her neck were healing some, but she looked miserable. She seemed broken to me. The only other wolf I h ad seen with such a demeanor was Lucas. I would have to talk to him. Up ahead I heard the crunching of leaves as paws tore through the forest. It sou nded like Joel had sent an army. As predicted my wolf didn't want to be caught w ith defenses down, especially with a weak injured female beside me. Despite the energy it took, I was suddenly the large white wolf growling out a warning to th e approaching throng. The wolf and I were finally agreed, no one else was hurtin g Emily. A large grey wolf wove out of the trees first, his head dipped low. He approache d us submissively and I was a little irritated. Everyone thought I was so out of control. Like I would really attack Nate. I stared at Nate and the frustration inside me grew. I had no idea how to talk t o him like this. Suddenly, I shifted clumsily back to a human form. The wolf was n't far, I could feel her lingering just under the skin. Nate shifted to a human kneeling before me and I watched the trees as the pack's warriors slowly emerge d and took a knee. I approached Nate, still watching my crying charge warily. "Please get up, you k now I have no idea what the protocol is." "Of course, Madam, we're glad to see you are unharmed. We had heard Emily was..u nwell," Nate said critically eyeing the young girl who just cried harder. "She was hurt badly and should be taken to the healer as soon as we reach the de n. There are two dead werewolves back the way we came from. That needs to be tak en care of, but I'm not sure what to do about it." "Yes, Madam Alpha I understand," he smiled at me. "We know what to do. We should get you back home now. It will be faster if we all shift and run as a pack." I turned to look at Emily. She stood cowering where I had left her. Instinct tol d me she should run at the back of all of us, away from me. It didn't sit well w ith me at all. "I don't want to be separated from her, Nate," I told him honestly

"She will run between you and I if you are still worried about her, Madam. It is not normal, but I understand you feel protective of her," Nate told me. I nodded my agreement to that plan, but I had another problem. "Nate, I can't co ntrol the shifting thing, it just happens when I'm scared, irritated, or angry. I'm so tired right now. How do I do it?" "Imagine the wolf running through the woods or fighting in the woods, whatever y ou've done as her. Let it take you over and you will shift," he said gently. "Pe rhaps you could contact Alpha Latro he could walk you though it." I huffed, "He's not really pleased with me right now. I'm trying to leave him al one." Nate laughed out loud at that, "Madam, when has he ever been entirely pleased wi th you? He will help you if you need it and I'm sure he'd like to hear from you. " I took a step back and breathed deep. I remembered how it had felt fighting the second wolf; my paws digging into the earth and then into his mangy hide. Lookin g down I had large white paws on the ground. I looked at Nate and my tongue fell out of my mouth in what I intended to be a smile. Nate called Emily forward and instructed her to follow me. "We will follow you b ack to the den," Nate encouraged as Emily shifted into a small silver wolf. My paws took on a life of their own and I started back for home. Emily was a lot slower than me and I had to adjust my speed significantly to avoid outpacing he r too far. Even with that I felt freer than I had since I started this crazy run this morning. I could smell the scent trail the warriors had left and I followed it. Not that I needed the direction. I knew exactly where home was and with exhaustion right on my heels I was headed to the den. I decided to take Nate's advice and contact Joel. 'They found me,' I called to Joel in my head, 'I'm going back to the den.' 'I already knew that, love, Nate told me as soon as they saw you.' 'Nate has a cell phone?' I asked him pondering where he had kept it. The man had been naked and I didn't see anything he could have used to call Joel. Joel laughed in my head a little and I was glad to hear him do it. Maybe he wasn 't too mad at me. 'Remember I already told you, you can communicate with the pack similar to the w ay you communicate with me. It will take practice, but in the wolf form you can talk to other wolves in their wolf form. Don't worry about figuring it out now.' 'I love you Joel. I'm sorry.' 'Don't you ever get tired of having to say that, love?' he asked sounding angry. 'Don't you ever get tired of bossing me around?' I shot back at him before I cou ld stop myself.

'We will talk when I get back,' he answered curtly ending the conversation. I opted to stop concentrating on him and enjoy my leisurely run. I sensed the pa ck running behind me, but I felt like the forest was mine. The stars and moon sh one above me and the woods were alive around me. It felt wonderful. Too soon I c ould see the looming structure of the den come into view. Concentrating hard, I fell gracelessly back into a human form when I saw all my friends standing outside the den. I wanted to tell them I was all right and apol ogize for ditching them. "Elizabeth," Katrina cried approaching me. She looked a wreck. Shawna was right behind her and didn't look much better. As I threw my arms around them, I realiz ed they were both sobbing in my arms. "What's wrong? Did something happen?" I asked confused. "We are just so glad you are okay. Alpha Latro will still punish us, but you are fine, yes?" Shawna asked. Now I felt like a jerk. I'd been running around playi ng most of the day while they panicked. "He won't punish you, any of you," I said looking pointedly at my Beta friends t hat had cared for me for the last several days. "I promise you I will take any p unishment the Alpha decrees, you all did a fine job." Wow, I was in way over my head. Emily was walking by the group about that time and burst into tears seeing me. K atrina moved to hold her and Emily tried to wiggle out of the embrace. Katrina w as persistent as usual. "Katrina, she must see the healer and you are not to leave her side. Please stay with her for me and I want to talk to her when the healer is done. Can you do t hat for me?" I asked hoping she wasn't too tired for one more task. "Of course, I will take good care of her," she answered brightly, holding Emily close. I trudged up the stairs to our suites and just wanted this day to end, but I had to get the hard part over with. The hard part of keeping my promise to all thos e wolves about my mate's fiery temper. Trying to be calm I stood in front of the balcony door and sucked in a deep breath. 'Joel, I know you are mad at me, but I need to talk to you,' I sent the message out wondering if he would respond to me. 'Then talk,' growled back into my mind. 'I don't want you to punish my Betas. I ran away. I deserve whatever you dish ou t, but just me,' I stated. 'What if I don't honor your request, mate? Perhaps I feel your Betas owed you be tter care than what they showed you.' I shuddered a little at his tone, but held my ground. 'It wouldn't be your decis ion to make,' I said praying this was the right tact, 'they are MY Betas. I made the mistake and I will pay for it. I chose who gets blamed.' Warm arms wrapped around my midsection and I almost shifted, luckily for him I w as tired. The wolf recognized his scent and relaxed back inside of me, pulling i n her teeth and claws, which had made an appearance.

"You still move like a ghost," I whispered. "You were concentrating, I won't always be able to sneak up on you," he said int o my hair. Being near him was like breathing after being under water too long. Turning I wr apped my arms around him and moaned as his scent saturated my new senses. He was intoxicating. His shirt was the only thing keeping my face from his skin and I ripped it down the middle rubbing my face against his chest. "I'm glad to see you too, my love. Do you plan to rip off all of my clothes? I h ad become rather fond of this outfit, but I suppose it's a small price to pay," he chuckled as his hands ran over my neck and back. "Be mad at me," I demanded trying to concentrate on the earlier conversation. It was really hard to remember what had been so important. "Say you will blame me for running. I knew it was wrong. I should have turned around the minute I regai ned control, but I was having fun. My Betas had nothing to do with it. They watc hed me as best they could." My human hands had wrapped tightly around his upper arms as I looked up into his eyes. He looked irritated and tired. "No blame for running today, love, it was natural," he sighed, "I just wish I co uld have gone with you on your first outing. I also wish it hadn't been so stres sful and violent for you. You were very brave, albeit foolish to take on the rog ues alone. What you did saved Emily, I'm sure of that. She'll be cared for now, we always take care of our own." I purposefully ignored the comment about my foolishness. That was another conver sation entirely. "You have to forgive Emily then," I said trying to think of som ething brilliant that would save her. "Forgive her for what?" he asked pulling back to look in my eyes. "I can't tell you that until you promise me you will forgive her," I tried to ba rgain with him. His eyes turned steely and his countenance changed, the Alpha was back. "Tell me what she did," he commanded. His smell was intoxicating me, I couldn't argue with him so close, so I backed a way. "No." "I get the feeling this little game is more than I would assume it to be," he sa id calmly stalking toward me. "It is, I promised I would protect her." "From me?" he asked continuing toward me as I backed farther away. "Yes," I was almost up against the wall beside the balcony. Moving away wasn't working, I still felt surrounded by him. Besides that my anim al instinct was howling her protest at retreating. I stood my ground and tried t o think of a way to tell him. He considered me for a moment, tapping his finger to his lips, and spoke. "Emily 's name was on the list of those that helped prepare my rooms for my new mate,"

he stated simply. I waited for the death sentence to come, but it didn't. "By the standards of pac k law she should be a rotting pile in the forest by now. Did she offer you her n eck?" he asked instead. "Yes," I answered hesitantly. "I take it you refused," he said holding my gaze. "She is with the healer now. She has paid a heavy price and is sorry for what sh e did." "She is sorry she tried to kill you is what you mean," he said shrugging out of his ruined shirt and kicking out of his shoes. "There were extenuating circumstances," I said watching him warily, "I forgave h er." "Was it your place to offer that?" he asked crossing his arms across his broad c hest. I lost my train of thought watching him. "Well?" he asked. "Yes," I answered confidently, "I am the female Alpha. It was my place to offer her forgiveness." He slowly came at me and wrapped me in his arms. There was no protest I could of fer that would sound sincere, I needed him. Shaking my head I tried to clear it, this conversation wasn't over yet. "It was my place to decide her fate. Do you agree or not?" I asked him trying to sound firm. He nuzzled into my hair and ran his hands down my back to kneed my buttocks. "Ma ybe," he answered, "convince me." "How do you want to be convinced?" I asked running my hands over his skin. He wa s steel covered in silk. I growled my appreciation at the texture of him. "You, my little love, will submit to my mastery until I say otherwise," he gruff ly whispered in my ear. "When I am done with you, I should be adequately convinc ed." Kneeling at his feet, I stripped him of his socks and started to work on his bel t. If all the man needed was a little sex, I would give him that willingly, Emil y or no. A knock at the main door made us both groan. I remembered I'd told Katrina I wan ted to see Emily once the healer was done. "It may be Katrina with Emily," I told him hesitantly. He still hadn't really said if I was able to decide her fate or not. He also had n't made any promise about leaving my poor Beta friends alone. I cursed myself f or promising people things I didn't know I could deliver on. "How interesting, perhaps we should see what our little rule breakers have to sa y then," he said starting for the door way.

I scrambled to my feet and followed him. He had sort of said I could make the de cisions I had made. He had also said he wasn't convinced yet. I tried to keep th e worry off my face. "By the way, love," he said just before we reached the main door, "I'm impressed with your acceptance of nudity. It's very refreshing from you and I don't mind the view at all." I flushed scarlet at his statement, I'd forgotten I'd been naked all day. Now I couldn't leave to go put on clothes, I had to see what he would do. Outside our door was a mass of people. I had expected just Katrina and Emily, bu t it looked like a small armada was accompanying them. Joel must have known what to expect because he threw open both doors. "Madam Alpha, thank you," cried a woman that looked strikingly like Katrina, she fell to the ground and started to kiss my feet. I would have moved away, but a strong hand on my back stopped me. I looked up to see Joel looking passively dow n at me. 'What's going on?' I asked him through our bond. 'You spared her only daughter. What kind of reaction would you expect?' he thoug ht back to me continuing to look at the throng with a reserved expression. The woman at my feet was talking and crying at the same time. I had trouble catc hing it all. It sounded like she was saying, "We didn't know until she just told us. She will never make this type of mistake again. She will learn from her mis deeds. I promise you she will always be a loyal pack member." The scene repeated with her father, uncles, aunts, cousins and friends. It was a little overwhelming. Once they were all done they looked at me expectantly. I w as at a loss. "Emily Maryann Swift," Joel said to the throng, "is the last survivor of this la test scandal. We have judged her to be a victim of it and not a perpetrator. The Madam Alpha wishes her to have time to heal. The damage inflicted by the renega des was not just flesh." The crowd murmured and I nodded my agreement to his statement. I didn't remember sending all of that thought to him, though. He continued, "Should she need a break from her duties that is acceptable. She w ill also be meeting with my mate twice weekly to help in her healing process, Mo nday and Friday at ten in the morning. Please make sure she gets to these appoin tments in a timely manner." That was confusing, but I tried to keep my face like his, blank and open. Emily stepped forward with Katrina still glued to her side. Tears were dried on Emily's face and her eyes were still red. Her mother pushed her toward me a litt le. Emily seemed hesitant, she obviously still felt guilty.

I did the only thing I could think to do that said 'innocent' and 'forgiven' all in one. I wrapped her in my arms and held her tightly. She started to cry again , harder this time. I just held her while she cried and soothed her with little strokes to her back.

"I'm so sorry. Please take my life; I don't deserve to live," she whispered in m y ear. "You will live and you will learn. We all make mistakes. You must get through th is," I said back to her. I felt her cling tighter to me and I looked up to see Joel's large hand stroking her back. "If you are hurt again, you will come to me first little wolf," he sa id. "I am responsible for protecting you, but I cannot do that if you are not ho nest with me." "Yes, my Alphas, I will not let this happen again. I promise," she stepped back to her mother and wiped her nose with her hand. I had to grab Katrina to keep he r from going with them. The throng slowly departed down the hall, everyone soothing Emily. I was relieve d to see that, part of me had feared they would all be angry at her. Katrina stood with Joel and I for a moment then threw her arms around me. "Oh El izabeth, she was so scared. She didn't care that I was there or that the healer was there, she told her mother everything. She begged to die, but you had told h er no. They were all so ashamed, so happy, and I didn't know what to say. They a sked me why you would forgive her and I said it was just you. I told them you fo rgave us to for not watching you well enough. I'm so sorry ..." I shushed Katrina and had to stifle a smile. Even when she was exhausted she was like listening to a train wreck. "Katrina," Joel interrupted, "you are forgiven. Go back to Saul, rest, and we'll see you in the morning. I'd like to spend a little time with the compassionate Madam Alpha." "Of course, Alpha Latro," she said brightly, "you've probably really missed her and I've seen her every day. Have a good night!" As she walked away I turned to Joel, "I think she's still talking." "Probably," he answered closing our doors and turning to me. I couldn't miss the fiery glint in his eyes. I tried to put off the inevitable by asking him, "How did you know what I though t about Emily's mental state and why is she coming to talk to me about it?" "You haven't learned to filter your thoughts yet. When she told you in the fores t she had been the one to put the poison in our rooms, you opened a connection t o me. I heard it all, your internal argument and her admission. I didn't tell yo u I knew because I was curious to see how you would handle me." "Dishonesty is not a very alluring trait, mate," I said poking him in the chest. "Neither is not trusting me," he said reaching for an exposed pink nipple. I jum ped out of his way. There was no way I would be talking to him if he started to touch me. "Why is she coming to talk to me?" I asked instead as he stalked me toward our b edroom. "You said yourself you've seen abused humans and Emily struck you as the same. W e don't really have that problem here. No one else is going to know what to do w ith her."

He continued to speak and follow me as I coyly avoided him, "You don't have to w orry about how the rest of the pack will treat her. Our forgiveness is absolute, the pack will accept she is innocent based purely on that. They have no reason to be angry at her if we are not." "How come you let me decide what to do with all the rule breakers?" I asked skir ting his hands and circling the bed. "Do you remember Will and your protection detail?" he asked. "Didn't I let you d ecide their fates? You are my mate, we share in this task now." "My wolf felt uncertain about my decision initially. Why did you agree with me s o quickly?" I asked him. "The wolves have a way of looking at the world, as you noted. There is only guil t or innocence. I agree with you that Emily was tricked in the human arena, she is both guilty and innocent. With our help she may be rehabilitated, but it will be a long road." I thought about it a moment too long and he had me around the waist. Joel pulled me onto the bed and nuzzled into my hair. I pressed my nose into his neck and b reathed him in. Of their own volition my hands were everywhere on him. His dress pants were in the way. I made to rip them off of him and he stopped me. "I go through clothes much too quickly as it is," he said sliding out of them. "Don't care about the clothes," I grumbled running my hands down his front, he s till wore his boxers. I'd talk him out of those quickly. I licked his flat nippl es and his breathing etched up a notch. He seemed to remember something suddenly and stiffened. "You still don't listen," he said irritably pulling away from me and rolling off the bed. I tried to grab him, but he avoided my hands. He paced back and forth beside the bed running his fingers through his hair. "I told you to run. You had no idea how dangerous a situation that could have been. In an instant of bravado, I could have lost you. We could have lost this," he f umed. "I am an Alpha. The rogues were weak and not a threat to me," I argued with him. "You've had me trained to protect myself for weeks. I'm just as capable as you are." That was the wrong thing to say. Joel's eyes lit gold at the challenge. "Do you really think so, mate?" he asked menacingly. "You are arrogant; being st rong does not make you invincible. You and your wolf need to learn your place." "I need to learn my place?!" I growled at him. I knew Joel was from a different era, but that kind of talk infuriated me. "Take me down to the gym and let me sh ow you exactly where my place is," I threatened him. I stood up with my fists cl enched, a little sparring would be fun. "The circle is more suited the lesson I plan on teaching you, Elizabeth. Let's s ee who gets there first," he said ripping off his remaining clothing. Joel shift ed into his wolf man form and disappeared off the balcony. I stood fuming for a moment and then took off after him. I had hit the ground an

d was running for the circle before I noticed I'd done it. My whole being took h is insult personally. I was not as weak as he thought I was. I gave myself over to my animal half and let her lead. My paws tore through the soil, easily outpac ing Joel. I streaked into the circle a body's length ahead of Joel. We paced around the ce nter for a moment growling and sizing each other up. 'I've already bested you once wolf,' Joel boomed into my head as we stalked one another. I got flashes of myself with gold eyes pinned to the bed beneath him th e night I first started to shift. 'You held down a hundred and fifty pound human with glowing eyes,' I shot back a t him, 'hardly a feat of strength.' Joel growled and lunged at me, but I artfully dodged him. Pacing casually behind him I gave off the air this was the most boring thing I'd done all day. 'So you do have enough sense to stay away from me,' he said humorlessly. That pissed me off so I ran at him, snapping my jaws. Joel snapped back and it w as real dog fight for a minute. I bit air wildly, but never did find purchase on his hide. We separated and watched one another, continuing to circle. My wolf was uncomfortable with attacking her mate. The human part of me didn't r eally want to harm him, either. I loved him. This attitude was just too much to take. 'I don't want to hurt you,' I called to him hoping to end this show. 'You think you could harm me?' he laughed in my head. 'You don't know your stren gths or your weaknesses. If you manage to scratch me by accident I'll be impress ed,' he goaded. I lunged at him and he nipped at my haunches as I missed. 'You should be glad I know my limits. I could play this game with you all night and never leave a mark unless I meant to,' he called pacing toward me with his t eeth bared. It was to be a battle. I gave my mind over to the wolf. I met the challenge head on and found his massive jaws around my neck a moment later. Releasing me he st alked away and then turned to come at me again. We were gaining an audience. As I circled around him, I saw the pack coming down to watch us. When he came at me the second time I avoided the feel of his jaws on my neck, bu t I was completely on the defensive. I was thinking and moving as quickly as she could, but it was barely enough. My moves were only in reaction to his; I never took the offensive. I was too busy blocking his plays to make any of my own. Joel came at me repeatedly. He changed tactics, changed forms, and used whatever tools were at his disposal. I learned quickly from my mistakes, mainly because he exploited each one until I did. I moved faster than I ever thought I could, b ut despite my speed he managed to out maneuver me most of the time. Using all my tools, I did get in a few successful bites or swipes. They surprise d Joel I was happy to see, but my victories was short lived.

After a successful assault by me, Joel always came back harder and stronger. Tho se attacks usually ended with my neck between his jaws. He never held me like th at for long. It was always just enough to make the point and then he moved away. The stars and the moon were high and bright by the time I realized how wrong I w as about my abilities. I was faster than him and very good at changing direction quickly, but that was it. Compared to Joel I was weaker and less experienced. He was powerful, of course, but that wasn't his primary weapon. He plotted, exploited, and anticipated. He h ad seen every move I had, in any combination I tried to use them and his energy for this game was boundless. 'I'm not as good at this as you are,' I finally called out to him standing still for what seemed the first time in hours. 'If the renegade wolves,' he said walking in front of me as the large black wolf , 'were more in number or had paid attention to the training I offered, you coul d have been hurt. I teach the smaller weaker wolves to fight together and to fig ht dirty. Your instincts are good, you are fast, and you have good stamina; howe ver, your moves lack sophistication. You haven't learned to anticipate your oppo nent's tactics or developed any sense of strategy.' It was a harsh statement, but it was the truth. This reminded me of all the rigo rous attending physicians I'd come to respect in residency. The only difference, they were worried I'd kill someone. Joel was worried I'd get killed. I stood and watched him pacing. 'I was stronger than them,' I called out to him. 'They seemed clumsy and weak to me. I would have left if I felt I was outmatched. Two of them against me didn't seem dangerous.' 'Do you know how to the wolves to trick hem against you was eren't anymore than pretend?' Joel asked continuing to pace around me. 'I teach their opponents into underestimating them. And yes, two of t not a threat. I have to wonder, were you really sure there w two when you started? Or were you more focused on Emily?'

I thought back and he was right. I hadn't really been sure of the number until a fter the fight. My attention had all been on Emily. 'So, I submit to you now?' I asked. I felt that's what I should be doing. He'd proved his point, I wasn't as strong as I thought I was. He'd bested me numerous times during this activity. 'No,' Joel growled into my mind. He walked up and ran the length of his body dow n one side of me and up the other. When he came to stand beside me I licked at the corner of his mouth. He was a be autiful beast, even when he was upset. 'You're confusing me,' I thought to him and let out a little whine, my animal ha lf wondered why I couldn't submit properly. What had I done wrong now? Joel nuzzled my neck and licked at my ear. 'Do you see the pack out there?' he a sked me. 'They didn't see the argument, just their Alphas sparring. They were im pressed with your speed and how quickly you learn. You take the job of protectin g them very seriously. It makes them happy.'

'Would you like me to submit to you in our rooms?' I asked. The heat present in the next thought would have been difficult to convey with ju st words. Joel sent over a stream of images of exactly what kind of submission h e wanted. I shuddered and felt myself get ready for him instantly. Joel scented the air and let me walk a few paces ahead. When he sniffed me, I fe lt a lick over my backside. He knew exactly what I wanted. Inside me the wolf was tugging at my mind, she wanted him on top of her now. She didn't want the human half to have the fun tonight. She had put up with far too much to just let go and let the humans play. I gave over all control to the wolf. She bolted away from Joel a few feet and tu rned to saunter back until I was facing him. Playfully, she got down on her fron t paws and barked at him. She turned away from him again and looked back at the large black wolf. He was salivating and excited. They took off toward the woods at the same time. The white wolf was faster, but the black wolf knew the terrain better. She came across a steep incline and chos e to go around it, instead of over it. On the other side hidden in the shadows t he black wolf was right in her path. The wolves circled each other in the dappled moonlight. She made to escape him a gain only to be trapped under his weight. When she felt his teeth grasping at th e scruff on her neck she relaxed under him. This was what she had been wanting f or ages. My human body had become accustomed to Joel, but the wolf's body was new. He mov ed inside her stretching her as she writhed beneath him. She ignored the slight pain, happy to feel his warmth at her back. As the wolves moved harmoniously together other couples started to do the same t hing in the woods around us. I saw through the wolf's eyes as her pack rutted in the forest. The entire experience thrilled her. The wolves bodies were primed from the fight and the chase. Fairly quickly she r eached nirvana as he spilled inside of her. She was finally satisfied after week s of waiting for him. She crawled back into the recesses of my mind to relax. I wasn't cold, but Joel felt good at my back. He slipped off so we lay on our si des and put an arm around my waist. I looked down and realized I had shifted. My body was human again. "I'm glad you're back," I told him relaxing into his embrace. "I'm glad to be back," he said kissing my neck. "I promise you, I won't be so reckless again," I said holding his hand. He laughed and I felt little jerks as his member twitched inside of me. "I have no doubt in mind that you would do exactly the same thing all over again. You ne ver gave a second thought to your own safety, only to that of the pack member in trouble. Your instinct is to protect. I will just have to train you quickly," h e said stroking my belly. We lay like that for a moment listening to the pack around us. "What did you and the other pack leaders decide about the witches?" I asked him

out loud. The answer came to me in head. 'Some things are better left between us and the pack Council,' Joel chastised so ftly. 'The pack leaders are concerned. The spell that conceals body odor from us was used successfully to gain entrance into a pack up north. They stole some va luable artifacts.' 'The pack there managed to catch one of the individuals involved while he was se lling the artifacts. He still had no smell to him. We are working to gain more k nowledge of that toxin. I unfortunately broke the only vial that we have encount ered. The witch they found there had also bought the magic, he couldn't reproduc e it.' I turned a little and saw Joel grimace. He was irritated that his plan hadn't wo rked out quite like he would have wanted. When he broke Ryana's spells he had an ticipated she would be able to build all of them over again. I thought about what he had told me for a moment, 'Your security for the den is based primarily on your senses and physical patrolling?' I asked. 'Primarily, yes,' he told me. 'We could add more technology to your security here,' I offered. 'I agree,' he said. 'We have only ever used that type of security at the shipyar ds. Now it appears we will have to install it here. I advised the other pack lea ders to do the same thing.' 'Bad time to be worrying about a new wolf,' I thought grudgingly. Like Joel didn 't have enough to worry about and then there was me. "Ah, this, my love," he said out loud, "gives me reason to worry about all the r est of it." ****** The End FOR NOW I sense an abrupt ending like this will get me flamed but good. However, I need time to work on the next part of the series. Give me until end October 2010 and I should have the next part out. This was my first attempt at writing and I really enjoyed it. Thank you to every one that had anything to say about what I wrote. I checked those comments daily.