"Meeting your future in-laws, Renee?" Harry cut through the tension of the room easily. I stood back and watched him work his magic.
"Just a small section of them, Harry. It seems this branch of Carlos' territorial pack has some reservations about us." She held her ground. Marcus and Carlos were off to one side of Archer's pack, watching. I saw Carlos was proud of his intended bride's strength. I guess werewolves put stock in appearances. I'd have reacted a bit differently to a pack of angry werewolves looking at me like I was supper but then I was dressed like a 'cotton-candy cheerleader' according to Harry so I doubted they'd take me seriously, fangs or not.
Archer stiffened and nodded to Harry.
"We meant no disrespect."
"None taken." Harry meant it. We both knew Renee could have called us for help and no matter what the werewolves thought, three full-blooded vampires could do some serious damage. And given we also knew where they kept their swords and weaponry it would be a pretty close fight for them. Some of what we thought must have shown on our faces because Archer paled. Had to love making a werewolf lose cool points in front of his pack.
He cowered slightly and nodded even more to Harry. It was then I figured out that Harry had made Archer into his submissive. Or whatever they called themselves as werewolves. Master-Fledgling relationships were different than werewolves, but there were threads of similarities. Archer knew he'd overstepped by calling in his pack to push at Renee no matter what the excuse. That we all looked unbothered by the dozen or so werewolves lounging around made him nearly as nervous as the calm demeanor of both Renee and Harry. Regardless of how tough a vampire I was I still looked like I should be boxed and sold next to other Mattel dolls.
I relaxed and concentrated on picking out the new faces. Lee had finally been allowed to dress but I could smell the blood on him so he hadn't been allowed to change forms. That'd keep him from healing rapidly. One of the real werewolf facts was that as humans once injured they would remain in pain and bleed like any normal man until they switched forms. Archer not allowing Lee to transform meant he was feeling every bit of the past twenty-four or so hours. His spirit was still there but he was subdued. I noticed he was crouched closer to Carlos and Marcus. They were ignoring him but I saw Marcus' glance flicker to him when he hadn't noticed me watching. Marcus had some plans for the newly-turned werewolf, if he survived the next full moonrise. The full moon had been the night before and I could already see that the assembled weres had more forest and earth scents on them than normal humans. I figured that they were only in human form because of us.
Renee didn't glance back but greeted us, "Hi, Natasha and Harry. You sleep ok?"
"Just peachy, Renee. So you're meeting up with the boys and girls, huh?" I saw two females in the group. One was thin, nearly cadaverously so, and the other was middle aged and looked to be what we used to refer to as a handsome woman. Meaning she wasn't exactly ugly but not a top shelf beauty. But hell, she may be a dang pretty werewolf. What'd I know?
It was then Archer's gaze finally took in my outfit. His jaw dropped and I watched him try to find something to add to our conversation while not saying anything about the pink. Given it was his nasty little housekeeper who'd found the clothing, I decided to dip my toe into the pool.
"Oh, sorry, Archer. Am I wearing your girlfriend's bikini?" I called all eyes to the minuscule bikini bottoms barely covering my assets beneath the gauze skirt.
"Actually those are mine," the cadaverous girl said.
She had a surprisingly husky voice. If I hadn't seen the words coming from her mouth I would have bet it had been the older woman speaking. Her mousy brown hair was lackluster and her eyes glowed oddly. She wasn't fully human. I watched her trail a thin hand over her parched lips and she covered them as it dawned on her nobody had been talking to her. Bad werewolf. She wasn't cringing but her eyes tightened. I noticed her pupils were dilated and the irises nearly invisible. If she was fully human I would have figured she had a serious drug problem but werewolves and vampires didn't bother with drugs as a rule. They didn't do much for us. It was the wildness of her inner beast waiting behind her eyes for a chance to tear into anyone or anything.
"I'll buy you a new suit okay?" I grinned lightening the mood considerably. Archer visibly relaxed.
"Sure." She smiled and some of the animal left her face.
"Desiree, that'll be enough." Costa didn't have to raise his voice but I watched the girl's shoulders roll forward. She was pretty far down in the pack by her response.
Harry cleared the archway and strolled over to Carlos and put his hand out saying, "Thank you for your help."
I heard all the werewolves pulses pick up and their blood thicken as they watched Carlos meet Harry's handshake. A small hiss of air as they all let free the breaths they'd been holding watching their werewolf leader smile and shake. Harry clapped his free hand on Carlos' shoulder and said, "You have been extremely kind to allow us rest under your pack's roof and it will be rewarded."
Harry was following a script unknown to me but I felt the power of his words and the strength of his convictions. He wasn't giving false words to the werewolves and because of that, defusing much of the worry they'd been holding tight inside. He never ceased to amaze me.
"It is an honor to be by your side, Harry." Carlos was smiling and nodding regally. Renee grinned at me and edged towards me. She said, "Pink's a nice color on you."
"I prefer red or black." I let her grin and went with the humor. I'd definitely be picking out a lovely wardrobe on Harry's credit card before the next full moon. I'd upgraded my needs based on the embarrassment I was enduring with the werewolves as witnesses. Harry rolled his eyes at me letting me know he was still able to read me. Damn, it had been good taking blood from him but I needed to muddy its power soon or he'd roll me into being his vampire. Simon wouldn't like that in any manner.
Harry winked at me and I felt a flutter of something inside. Yeah, I needed to sup down some type A really soon. The whispered conversations on the edges of the group made me nervous, as I was the focus of far too many gazes. Not every werewolf thought Carlos and Renee's upcoming wedding was a good thing but at least we vampires distracted them. Lovely.
"Well, I am happy we could allow you rest." Archer redirected everyone's gaze to him. He was in control of his emotions and wanted to take back the control over his pack.
The evening had sneaked into the room, creating more shadows. It wasn't fully dark but it was late afternoon. The sun wasn't anywhere in the room but just the scent on the hair of the werewolves. It made me wistful for a moment then I saw Renee stiffen. Marcus was softly touching her and whispering something. They weren't that far from me but I couldn't make out any words. Marcus had surprised Renee. I closed the distance between us all saying, "My, my. Secrets already, Marcus?"
His dead gaze met mine and I felt the power of his position. He was second-in-command to Carlos in the pack and not above some creative interpretation of the rules from what I had seen. A good werewolf to have at my back but I wouldn't want him at my throat. He saw my violation of his personal space as a personal affront. His eyes widened as I put my nails deep into his forearm while saying, "Archer, do you mind if Marcus and I head to the kitchen for a bite?"
The hiss through the room wasn't nearly as soft as the last one but Archer said, "Not a problem. Do you need me to have someone brought for your enjoyment?"
I felt the wave of revulsion from the werewolves. They liked to tear apart their meals, from what I'd seen, so they had no room for judgment but that didn't stop them. Hardcore friction between werewolves and vampires wasn't exactly unheard of but I was having fun.
"Nope, I'm good." I winked at Archer and pulled Marcus with a tad more strength then he'd expected. His skin was butter to my nails and I scored a good inch before he skipped behind me. Harry just watched. It wasn't policy to separate but he figured I could handle the kitchen staff. Besides he still had a window into my head with his blood flowing through my body.
Marcus and I walked into find the housekeeper mimicking my taking the clothing from her hands. Her back was to us so she just saw the wide-eyed stares of her three helpers and thought they were reacting to her story. I waited while she finished with, "And so I just said, 'That'll do your sort!' and left. She must look a sight in those things. Whores clothing -- little more than what she deserves."
One of the gals must have missed a meal or three because she went white and passed out. Her head thudded the hardwood floor while the housekeeper watched and was chuckling to herself.
"Well, my story isn't that bad." She was still laughing while the other two pointed to us with shaky hands.
It wasn't Marcus' pack but he cuffed the housekeeper with a barely leashed fury saying, "Are you stupid? Do you even know who you are disrespecting?"
The housekeeper spun around, stunned to see us in the kitchen. The red mark stood out starkly on her very pale face. I felt her flood of fear rushing along the multitude of veins beneath her skin tempting me to do something naughty. The other two women dipped down and picked up the unconscious girl on the floor. They all but ran out, dragging her between them.
She recovered her composure. Snarling she pushed herself up half an inch taller and said, "Marcus, you aren't my master."
I dropped my fangs down and said, "No, but I could be."
She began to shake, "You wouldn't dare."
"I don't know. If you keep spreading rumors about me and making me the punch line to your feeble jokes, I might feel the need to feed." I put some power behind my words while knowing I still looked like a piece of cotton-candy fluff.
Pulling herself up even taller she screamed, "Costa!"
Smiling, I waited for Costa to come and play.
Marcus said, "You're an idiot."
He stood aside, waiting for Costa to show up. I moved closer to the housekeeper. I didn't use the rapid vampiric speed but a slithering movement that was nearly reptilian. It was vicious way to toy with the woman but I was wearing pink so she deserved it. Her heartbeat was increasing and her breath was getting faster as I neared her.
Costa arrived and watched me, as I was a foot away from the woman, without moving past Marcus. Something went between the two and Costa nodded slightly and he said, "Did you need something, Natasha?"
"No, I think this creature has volunteered for some much needed groveling. Do you allow your guests access to the rooms downstairs or do I deal with her in the kitchen?" I plucked a sharp knife from the cutting board on the counter and spun it in my hand.
Nodding Costa said, "I imagine we could arrange for you to have some time with Ginger here. But there are better toys available and sadly she does make delicious scones."
To be continued ...