Unexpected Demands

an excerpt

Simon owned a small house with a white-fenced yard. It was far enough from the neighbors for privacy, which was turning out to be a good thing. When I pulled in the driveway, four men were standing on the front steps. On the bottom step, in a dark parka and boots, stood a stocky, brown-haired man with a reddened face. He looked in his mid-thirties, but I knew he was sixty-six. I also knew he was short-tempered, right-handed, of average intelligence, and he was as violently homophobic as they come. Daniel. Shit.

A few steps behind him was a man who might have been his clone, but for the lighter hair and eyes: Geoffrey. He had been eighth ranked in our old pack, and was now Joshua's Third, and not a stupid man. But he was cold, and calculating, and had no love for any wolf of mine.

At the top of the steps stood my two men. Andy was dressed for the weather, his gloved hands clenched into fists, the hood of his jacket pushed back to give him a full range of vision. His breath streamed out in puffs of white, and I could practically taste his fear, but he held his ground. Behind him, oblivious to having bare feet on the frozen porch, Simon stood still as stone. Short but wide, built like a fighter with muscles rippling under his copper skin, Simon was not a wolf to take on lightly. A fact Daniel apparently acknowledged, since he was still at the bottom of those stairs.

They all swung their heads to look at me as I got out of the car. Andy's posture relaxed immediately. I winced inwardly at his faith in his Alpha, even as I appreciated it.

Simon held his ground, unmoving. But then he had his lover, Paul, in that house behind him. No one was getting through Simon to come close to Paul. And he trusted no one, not even me, to take that responsibility from him.

"Geoffrey," I said coolly. "Daniel."

"This is none of your affair, Tremaine," Daniel snapped. I noted that Geoff was holding back and letting the lower wolf speak up. Interesting.

"Of course it is. My wolves, my problem. Want to tell me what's going on?"

"I'm here to challenge that...that...thing that you're letting walk around like he's as good as the rest of us." Daniel pointed a finger at Simon. I took into account the slight tremble that was due to rage, not fear. Stupid of him to underestimate Simon, but that was Daniel.

"In the first place," I told him, "you can't. He's not in your pack now. You want to take on one of my wolves, you have to face me first. And I don't think you want to do that." I glared at him, and it took less than two seconds for him to drop his eyes. I might have been only a few ranks ahead of him in the old pack, but I was an Alpha now, and his body knew that even better than his brain. "In the second place, Simon would wipe the floor with you, if I let him."

"Bullshit," Daniel blustered. "He's nothing. Stinking faggot. He's bowed his head to me a hundred times."

"Because he chose to. Think, you fool. Simon beat Frank in a fair fight. Frank!" The big tawny wolf had been our Fourth, and a vicious fighter. In the scrambling events of that night, when I killed Karl and everything had changed, perhaps the biggest surprise had been Simon rising victorious from Frank's body. I had known he was holding back, hiding in the middle of the pack. I hadn't realized how much.

The memory of that night flitted across Daniel's face too, and he paled a shade, but he wasn't the kind to ever back down. "Bullshit," he repeated. "I can take him."

I turned a calm eye to Geoffrey, who was watching us both. "Is this challenge sanctioned by your Alpha?"

Geoff shook his head. "I don't believe he ran it by Joshua first. But he does have a complaint."

More than the standard gay werewolves are the spawn of Satan and should be destroyed?

"What complaint?"

"My house!" Daniel sputtered. "Someone took orange spray paint and wrote things on my house!"

I turned an inadvertent snort into a cough. Not funny, not funny. "What things?"

Daniel's face had regained its red hue. "Words. Insults. And he did it." He turned to glare at Simon again. "You know he did. Cowardly, sneaking around, afraid to face me. He wrecked my house!" He made a lunge up the stairs.

I grabbed his arm, and swung him around to face me. "Shut up and stand down," I hissed, with all the menace I could put into it. Apparently it was enough, because he sagged like all the air had leaked out of him. "I will look into this, and if your property was damaged, I'll see that you get compensation from the guilty party. But it wasn't Simon. I've had men watching him for his protection all week." I gestured at Andy. "Simon didn't do anything to you. So go home, and let your Alpha deal with this. Unless you'd rather challenge me?"

He didn't even try to meet my eyes. "No, Alpha."

"Go." I gave him a shove toward his parked car.

From where he stood watching, Geoff said, "Maybe it wasn't Simon this time. But your pack's out of control. You're only asking for trouble, letting this go on. Follow the law, get rid of the human who knows about us, deal with your fag, and then we can live in peace again."

"Over my dead body," I said coldly.

"Perhaps." Geoff looked me up and down, then shifted his gaze to Simon, and to Andy still trying to look tough and protective. When Geoff turned back to me his lip was curled in a sneer, although he couldn't quite meet my eyes. "Perhaps someone will take you down, and then deal with this...perversion... the way it should be handled."

"But not you." I stepped forward, pushing into his personal space, and he backed off a step, then two. "And not today. Now get out of here."

I held my ground until they climbed into their car and drove away. Then I sighed. Damn. I so did not need this.

Behind me Andy said softly, "I'm sorry, Aaron."

"For what?" I turned to look at him. "You did what you were supposed to. When trouble came, you called me and backed up Simon until I got here. What else could you have done?"

"I wasn't much backup," he said miserably. "Daniel would have walked right over me."

"It's not your job to stand up to wolves like Daniel. It's mine. You did fine." I climbed the steps and slapped his shoulder gently. "Take off, Andy. I'll be here for a while, and Damian will be on patrol soon. Go get something to eat and warm up." Not that we wolves felt the cold much.

Andy ducked his head. "Okay." He turned to Simon. "You okay, bro?"

Simon dredged up a smile. The two had been friends a long time. "I'm fine. I'm glad you didn't get dragged into a real fight, but it was good to have you here."

"Right, sure." Andy waved a hand toward the house. "Bye, Paul." He pulled his hood up over his ears and headed off down the road to wherever he had parked his car.

I turned to Simon, still standing immovable in his doorway in sweatpants and a T-shirt. "Let's take this inside," I said gently. "You're letting in the cold, and you may not feel it, but Paul does."