The Protectors
Author: Fox Wild

Chapter 4
Renegades, Rouges and Snow

Chapter 4

 

Renegades, Rouges and Snow

 

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Snow was showing her designs to Duncan, the drafts and notes she had made covered the conference table in the main building at Galt labs.  Snow was walking along the wall of windows that looked out onto the main research floor of the building downstairs. 

 

There was an open metal staircase with pipe railing that led up to the office and conference area.  Employees were moving about, some stopped to talk with people, others carried things from one location to another while others were tending the layers of plants that extended to the ceiling.  Catwalks ran the length of the building giving workers access to the various levels. 

 

Duncan was muttering to himself as he looked at the papers and drafts Snow had come up with.  She had used the conference table because her office in the three weeks she had been with Galt labs had become to cluttered and didn’t have the usable space to display her work to Duncan. 

 

She watched Connie come up from the main office, she was Duncan’s secretary, an efficient woman in her mid sixties, her head crowned in white hair, thin build, pleasant voice and always smiling.  She came to the conference room door and knocked.  Duncan looked over at the door.

 

“Yes, come in Connie.”  He called out.

 

Connie entered, smiling. “Hello Snow, you look nice today, are you getting enough sleep dear?  He isn’t making you work to hard is he?”  She said joyfully to Snow.  She wasn’t being perky, something Snow despised, more so she was letting Duncan know she thought he had Snow working too many hours and himself also.

 

“Thank you Connie.”  Snow replied with a smile.  “Duncan says I work too much, if anything, I keep him here too many hours.”  Snow said and walked up to Duncan and rubbed a hand on his back.

 

She had been introduced to everyone at Galt labs as his fiancé, they had to keep the image going.  They had become fast friends, Snow could see from time to time how Duncan looked at her, his eyes said he wished there could be more between them, but he accepted the facts of her lot in life. 

 

He still had a lot of pain inside himself from his wife and really wasn’t ready to move on or have a relationship. 

 

Snow had offered to introduce him to some nice girls, some nice werewolf girls from another clan.  He had refused, he would look down and lose his sparkle.  Snow knew where he went when he did that, back to when he and his wife were happy together, making bad jokes about their work days, planning a vacation to the Virgin Islands that never seemed to happen. 

 

Work always got in the way.

 

“Duncan,” Connie began, “the Burpee Seed people are here for your meeting with them.”  Connie stood near the end of the table with her hands politely clasp in front of her crisp ankle length skirt waiting for his acknowledgement and that he would be right in to meet with them.

 

“Thank you Connie, show them into my office, see if they want some coffee or something, I’ll be right over.”  Duncan said looking over to her while he was leaning over the table inspecting a design.

 

“I already have sir, your coffee is on the desk sitting on the warming plate.”  Connie said and turned around and walked out of the conference room, closing the door behind her.

 

He shook his head and straightened up.  “You amaze me Snow.”  He said motioning to the schematics on the table.  “It would have taken my people years to come up with this, we have been working on this concept for almost a year now, you’ve totally redesigned the lighting in a few weeks and drafted it all out.  How did you ever get so knowledgeable on this stuff?”  He said while still looking down at the drafts.

 

“Like I said, I was in charge of keeping my clan up on technology as it developed.  I not only learned how to use it, I studied how it was made, everything I could whenever there was a breakthrough in electronics.  It’s part of what I do still.”  Snow said, pleased Duncan appreciated her work so much.

 

“I don’t think I’m paying you enough.”  He said with a laugh as he turned his attention to her.

 

Snow smiled.  “Well, technically you aren’t paying me at all, I’m getting stock options and a percentage of the profits from any new product we sell.”  Snow prodded him.  It was a better deal than a simple paycheck for her, Duncan had resisted on the deal she had made with him, but in the end he relented.  “Burpee?”  She said, reminding him of the people waiting to see him.

 

“Yes, Burpee.  You know, we could build this in a few months, we could have a working prototype to take to market within six months.”  Duncan looked back at the table, his mind was racing, considering the possibilities. 

 

“Duncan, Burpee people, go, now.”  Snow said.

 

Duncan turned and moved towards the door with his eyes still on the table of designs, repeating what she had just said as he went.

 

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When Duncan finished his meeting, some hour and a half later, he was in a good mood.  The meeting had gone well, he couldn’t wait to tell Snow.  Connie could tell by the way he was smiling and from the jokes that were being made between himself and the Burpee people as Duncan saw them out. 

 

“We’re in the radish business!”   Duncan said as he walked into Snow’s office before he realized she had company.  Snow looked up at Duncan, she did smile but it was a tenuous smile at best, the young man sitting in the swivel chair in front of her desk turned to face Duncan.

 

“Radishes.  Interesting.”  The man said.  Duncan looked him up and down.  He was clean shaven, appeared to be about twenty and wore a brown leather jacket with a light colored dress shirt underneath.  He seemed a pleasant fellow.  Duncan noticed he had Snow’s hand in his and that they both retracted their hands when he walked in. 

 

Duncan didn’t like the man.

 

“And what have we here?”  He asked, his voice somewhat cold after the good news chime it had had when he walked in.

 

Snow felt the temperature in the room drop with Duncan’s words.

 

“Hello sir, I’m Kicks Montebello.”  The young man said as he reached to shake Duncan’s hand.

 

Duncan didn’t move to accept the greeting, instead he became instantly confronting. “What kind of name is Kicks?  Your parents name you after a cereal or something?” Duncan said, clearly showing his disliking of the man.

 

The young mans eyes narrowed, his jaw tightened.  “It’s the name given to me when I became a rogue from my clan.”  He said with vexation in his voice.  He didn’t care for Duncan’s immediate aggression with him, he also wasn’t one to back down.  If Duncan were going to engage him, he was up for the fight.

 

Snow shot out of her seat and quickly close the door. “Duncan, what’s wrong with you?”  She said in a hushed voice.  Then she shot a harsh look at Kicks.  “Will the two of you calm down!”  She said returning to her seat.

 

“Frell!”  She expelled looking between the two of them.  “So much for polite introductions, glad you got the contract Duncan, I’d like you to meet Kicks, my cousin from clan Westbridge.”  Snow said with her own vexation in her voice.  “You two want to scratch each others eyes out now or should I get some pistols and you can each take ten paces out in the parking lot?”  Snow ended giving them both a look of displeasure.

 

Duncan’s face felt hot.  He deserved what just happened.  “Cousin?”  Duncan said as his face drooped.

 

“Yeah, I’m her cousin dickhead, maybe you should apologize before I adjust your attitude myself.”  Kicks ejected angrily at Duncan.

 

“Oh really?  I’ve got twenty kilos of silver right in the other room, maybe I should shove an ingot of that up your ass just to see what happens?”  Duncan burst back.

 

“Shut the frell up!”  Snow yelled at the two men.

 

“You!”  Snow said, “You may be rogue but you still have to follow the rules, you so much as lay a finger on Duncan and Robert will disavow you to renegade so fast you’ll lose your tail.”  She said looking at Kicks. “And you!”  Snow turned her attention to Duncan.  “How dare you threaten any of our kind with silver?  That’s not something my partner would do!”

 

The door to Snow’s office opened and Connie stuck her head in.  “Is everything alright in here Miss Wolf?”  She asked.  “I heard shouting.”

 

“Everything’s fine Connie, we were talking about the new contract, things got a bit excited, sorry.”  Snow said.

 

Connie looked at the young man in the chair.  Then she looked at Duncan.  He caught a glint of concern as she turned and walked out.

 

“Will you two put your testicles in a box and set them outside for a bit?”  Snow started.  “I swear, give something a cock and balls and all it wants to do is fight, sheesh.”  Snow was leaning forward with her arms outstretched onto the top of her desk.

 

Duncan and Kicks both started laughing when Snow said this and looked at one another.  They had gotten a bit hot towards each other.

 

“I’m sorry Sadness, I was out of line, I should have held my temper.  What got me in trouble in the first place, my temper.”  Kicks said with his head down, looking at Snow.

 

“Yeah, I’m sorry to Snow, it’s just, when I saw… I acted like some pup kid.”  Duncan said humbly to Snow.

 

“Snow?  Why do you call her by her matriarch name when you two haven’t been mated yet and haven’t started a clan of your own?  We always go by our family clan name.” Kicks said looking at Duncan, not in anger, honestly confused.

 

Duncan looked at Snow, this was out of his world of knowledge.

 

Snow cleared her throat.  “Right, about that.”  She started, looking down at her desk, her face showed a slight anxiety as she went on.  “Well, you see Kicks, Duncan and I can’t be mated, he isn’t a born werewolf, as a mater of fact, he isn’t any kind of werewolf.”  Snow said sighing at the end, bracing for what came next.  Hoping Duncan would understand.

 

Kicks stood up, looked at Duncan and sniffed him, he turned towards Snow.  “Sadness, I don’t understand, Robert partnered you to a human?  This has never been done before, you’re cursed!  You’ll never have a clan, you’ll be made worse then renegade for sure!”   Kicks was upset, he was concerned for his cousin.  He looked over at Duncan “Do you know what this means?  Do you have any idea?” 

 

Duncan shook his head, looked over at Snow, her face bore her clan name.  Duncan looked down as he spoke to Kicks, he didn’t understand what it meant, but he felt it wasn’t good.

 

“No Kicks, I don’t.  I wasn’t told some things apparently.  I thought we were partners… partners like when two humans are paired together in the FBI or like two cops on a beat.”  He looked up at Kicks then turned a slow look back at Snow who was staring at her desk then back to Kicks.  “I think I was left out on some important information.”  His voice had a somber tone.  Whatever it was, it was too late to fix now.

 

Kicks’ face went fallow.  He looked back at Snow. “And you chastise me.  You didn’t tell him did you?  He doesn’t know what you did, what this means?  He needs to know Sadness.  What you did isn’t right, it isn’t right!”

 

Snow stood, she wasn’t looking at either of the men who cared about her. “I think you should go now Kicks.”  She sighed deeply.  Looking up at Duncan she said, “I think we should go too, the house, home is a more appropriate place for this conversation than here.”

 

Duncan nodded.  He had a bad feeling about this.  He turned and faced Kicks. “Sorry we got off on the wrong foot Kicks.”  He said, and stuck out his hand. 

 

Kicks looked at Duncan’s hand, he shook his head, he looked as though he were about to spit in Duncan’s face.  He took several angry steps towards the door.  When he reached it he stopped.  Kicks stood at the door for nearly fifteen seconds, Duncan and Snow looked at his back, both wondering what he was about to do.  He was clearly upset.

 

 Suddenly he turned and moved to Duncan, grabbed his hand and shook it. “Take care of yourself, don’t do anything stupid, or dangerous, hear?”  He said to Duncan.  Then he walked back to the door and left.  The door hung open as Duncan stared after Kicks who was walking away with his hands in his pockets and his head hung low.

 

Duncan looked at Snow.  Her face was the epitome of sadness.  “I don’t know what you’ve done Snow…”

 

“When we get to the house Duncan, ok?”  Snow ejected suddenly.

 

“Snow,” Duncan said in a calm tone, “I don’t know what you’ve done, I just want you to know, whatever it is, we’ll deal with it together, and you will always have a home with me as long as I live.”

 

Snow’s reaction wasn’t what he expected.  Her face flashed in anger, her voice suddenly cold. “Frell you Duncan, let’s go!”  She snapped, grabbing her coat and storming past him, out the door, then her feet could be heard as they pounded down the metal stairs angrily.

 

Duncan stood in the doorway stunned for a moment.  Finally he shook of the shock off what just happened and went to the main office where Connie was. “Connie, Snow and I will be heading home early today.  If you need me for anything, you know.”  Duncan said to her.

 

“I know Duncan.  You know us here, we’ll keep everything running smooth.  The boys in R & D are going to have a field day with the new designs Snow came up with.  Ted was actually saying how excited he was to get to work on, something, bit past me, but whatever it was, he wanted to get moving on it.”  Connie assured Duncan.

 

Duncan smiled back at her, she did take good care of things when he wasn’t there.  He just started to turn to leave. “Duncan, is everything alright?”  She asked in a concerned voice.

 

Duncan turned around and looked at her.  “Yes, everything’s fine Connie, just fine.”

 

“I know bullshit where I hear it Mr. Galt, and I know a hurt woman when I see one, I may be old, but I still can see things just fine.”  Connie responded back.

 

“That was her cousin that was here, there’s some sort of family issue, that’s all.  She just needs some time is all, I’m sure she will be all better tomorrow.”  Duncan told her with a reassuring smile.

 

“I hope so, you need to keep her, she’s good for you Duncan, you’re a nice couple.”  Connie said as a ‘matter of fact’.

 

Duncan paused, looked at her and smiled for real this time. “Thanks Connie, you know, you’re the first person to tell me that.”  Duncan knocked his knuckles on the top of the reception desk Connie sat behind.

 

“That’s because I look with more than just my eyes, Mr. Galt”  Connie smiled back.

 

Duncan left and made his way down the stairs, looking over the operations of his lab slowly as he descended the steps.

 

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When he arrived at the truck, Snow was already inside.  He climbed up into the cab of the truck, put on his seatbelt then looked over at Snow who was ignoring him, staring out the truck window across the small parking area to the woods.  He was about to say something but stopped short.  He lowered the sun visor and took the key that was stuck above it and put it in the ignition.

 

Snow didn’t even look at him the entire time they drove home.  Duncan reached to turn on the radio then decided music and talk was not what he wanted right now.  When they passed through town Duncan saw the Sheriff parked by a vehicle and was talking to someone.  The person was pointing off somewhere and the Sheriff was nodding. 

 

As Duncan passed the Sheriff waved at him, Duncan waved back.

 

When they reached the driveway to the house Duncan stopped at the end of the drive to check the mail.  He pulled the mail out and thumbed through it.  One letter had arrived from the state for Snow.  He pulled it from the bundle of junk mail and bills and put it on top.  He was planning on handing it to her once he got back in the truck, thought better of it and just set the pile on the seat.

 

When he parked in the garage Snow got out and ran to the house before he even had the key out of the ignition.  Duncan closed the doors on the garage and went to the door of the house, Snow was standing there waiting.

 

“Damn it.”  He said under his breath, he was supposed to get a key made for her today, they didn’t get the chance, tomorrow he thought, have to get it tomorrow, if she’s still here.  He looked to the ground.  He didn’t like the thought that crossed his mind.  He prayed she wasn’t going to take off.

 

Duncan pulled his keys from his pocket and unlocked the door, he barely retrieved his key from the deadbolt when  Snow plowed through the door and inside.  Duncan followed slowly.  Snow was hanging up her coat.  Everything she did was with anger right now.  Duncan hadn’t done anything, whatever this was about, Snow had done it, but that didn’t stop her from taking it out on him.

 

Duncan walked up to her.  He tried to put his hands on her shoulders, she shoved him back, he flew against the wall, almost winded.  Snow walked away and headed to the library.  Duncan recovered himself and strode after her, this was getting annoying.  He was going to tell her so, they came home to talk and she was shutting him out.

 

“Snow, “Duncan said to her back as she stood motionless in the middle of the library, “tell me what this is all about, obviously I was left out of some important discussion, I want to know what is up, you said werewolves can’t lie so tell me what this is about.”  Duncan demanded.

 

“Shut up, just shut the frell up you bastard!”  Snow screamed at him.

 

Duncan had had enough.  “You know what Snow, go frell yourself, if this is what I came home for you can just suck it.  I’m going back to the lab.”  Duncan said, wheeled and strode back towards the front of the house. 

 

There was a flash, something bumped him.  He was reaching for the doorknob, Snow was blocking his way.  Her look had changed, she looked wild.  Duncan took a step back, Snow’s eyes were lowered, her mouth open slightly and she was breathing fast, she was spread out across the door with her arms across it and her legs spread just over shoulder width, she looked like she was ready to attack, color had came to her white skin. 

 

She hunkered down and started moving slowly towards him.  Duncan had started walking slowly backwards, he felt like a rabbit that was facing a wolf.  He knew all too well he couldn’t overpower her, if she chose to attack, there wasn’t much he could do to stop her. 

 

There wasn’t a single thing made of silver left in the house, he had ensured anything that could hurt her was gone, even the coins in his collection that were silver were now history.  He was about to try and make a break for it to the stairs that went down to the basement in hopes of getting the vault door closed before she could get in.  He doubted if he would make it ten feet before she had him, but he had to try. 

 

Snow seemed to sense what he was about to do, had he telegraphed it somehow?  She snapped forward grabbing him by his shirt and hurled him back into the living room.  Duncan landed in the small loveseat that was against the wall by the two recliners. 

 

Snow pounced through the air and landed on him with a knee on either side of his lap, she pinned his arms to the back of the loveseat.  Her eyes were wild, mouth still open, breathing fast and heavy like a wild animal, she was panting. 

 

“Scared?”  She huffed in a raspy voice.

 

“A bit, yeah.”  Duncan said.  Scared was the least of the emotions he felt right now.

 

“Afraid of dying?”  She asked, her breath was hot.

 

“I don’t want to die, but if that is what you intend to do, kill me then, get it over with.”  He said, his voice was calm, even though he was sweating.  When she asked him if he was afraid of dying he felt a tingle go up his spine.  Her killing him wasn’t on his mind at the time she said it. Even after she said it, it wasn’t what he was thinking about.

 

“What is the strongest emotion you have right now?”  Snow panted.

 

“Fear, is that what you’re looking for?”  He replied.

 

“What is the strongest emotion you’re having right now?”  She said again.

 

“I don’t understand what you’re looking for Snow, I answered you, I don’t know what you want.”  Duncan responded, he didn’t understand what was wrong with her.

 

“The truth Einstein, the straight honest truth, no bullshit, honesty, werewolf honesty, what is the strongest emotion you’re having, what are you feeling?”  She was practically growling right now.  She was snapping her teeth at him while she talked. 

 

He could feel the heat of her breath on his face, her hands felt hot against his arms.  She seemed to radiate heat.  He didn’t know if it was from anger or what, her eyes were locked with his and the look should have scared him, but it didn’t. 

 

He had lied when she asked him if he was scared.  She had smelt that on him, he knew it.  Duncan knew he had to be as honest as he could.

 

“Turned on, aroused, I’m sporting wood right now I could chisel concrete with, you’re making me so damn horny right now I want to grab you and make love to you right here on the floor.”  He said to the wild face in front of him in complete and straight forward honesty.

 

Snow eased up a bit, her panting slowed and she leaned back some.  His answer seemed to be what she was looking for, the honest one. “Do you think I have a nice ass?”  She asked, her eyes still locked with his.

 

This caught Duncan off guard, he wasn’t expecting the question in this given situation. “Excuse me?”  He stammered, he wasn’t sure he had actually heard her ask the question.

 

“You look at my bottom frequently, I see you doing it, simple question, do - you - think - I - have - a - nice - ass?”  She said slowly making sure he fully understood the question.

 

Duncan was unaware he was nodding slightly.  “Yes, I do look at your bottom, a lot actually, but no, you don’t have a nice ass.”  Duncan started to smile, he couldn’t help it,  Snow’s head moved back a bit, her eyebrows lowered while she looked at him. “Snow, you have a great ass, I think you’re incredibly sexy, stunning through my eyes.”

 

Snow leaned in and sniffed him.  She started smiling slightly.  The moment lasted only a few seconds.  Her face changed, he didn’t know how to describe it, it wasn’t anger, it wasn’t sadness though it hinted at it, it wasn’t happiness either, he wasn’t sure.

 

“And you understand, we can never be together that way, no born werewolf can mate with an unturned, a human, you understand I am not allowed to turn a human to be my mate?”  Snow said, her eyes remained locked with his.  Her voice still low and growling.

 

“Yes, you told me that, I have never thought otherwise, Snow.”  Duncan assured her.

 

“But, you do desire me?”  She panted.

 

“You know I do, I just said as much.  I have accepted the truth you have told me, werewolves can’t lie, right?”  He said trying to figure the situation out.

 

Snow nodded her answer.  Now her face showed pain, he didn’t know why exactly, maybe it was because she felt the same way he did.

 

“I did something, I agreed to something, something that makes me an abomination to the clans.”  Snow said, her voice had softened some.  “The night Ed was dealt with for his crimes against humankind, we were at the island in the kitchen.”

 

Duncan nodded as she talked.

 

“You and Steve were put into a state of sleep, so you couldn’t hear what was said, you wouldn’t remember what happened or realize how much time had passed.”

 

Duncan’s brow furrowed, thinking back to the night.  He concentrated on his memories of the night.  The man in the suit.  Duncan had been waiting for him to return from the back part of the house.  He remembered him walking behind Steve and Robert, he didn’t remember seeing him actually come back out of the hall. “When the man in the suit was in the house…”  Duncan never finished the sentence.

 

Snow started nodding, answering the question.  “We paused you, if you will.  That’s when I was asked to decide.  I am ‘outcast’, I have no clan, I cannot be rogue.  There is no place for me, no pure-born will have me.  I cannot turn a mate as my father did, I have to mate with a born werewolf.  Nothing else is acceptable.”

 

She lowered her head some as she started to explain.  “My father was the product of two born werewolves, therefore he had to turn his mate, I have to mate with a born werewolf, and my firstborn would have to turn a mate.  So I was made ‘outcast’ and this cleared the way for one of my younger alpha brothers to mate and take my place as first born alpha.”

 

Duncan listened, it sounded cruel, but it made sense in a bizarre way.

 

“We have to keep human lineage in the blood line, bad things can happen if born werewolves only mate with born werewolves, that is why we never go beyond one generation before introducing different genetics into our lines.  Only born werewolves can produce alphas needed to build new clans.”

 

Duncan wanted to ask a question, he wasn’t sure if he should.  She wanted honesty, he hoped she would grasp his reasoning.  “So how does that affect you and I?  What is this abominable thing you have done?  You accepted a partnership with me, we haven’t mated, and we aren’t going to, what is all this trouble that was caused?”

 

Snow shook her head and looked down, shame on her face.  “I am mated to you Duncan, in an impure way, without your consent.  I allowed myself to be defiled by blood.” 

 

Snow saw the intense confusion erupt in Duncan’s face.  She hoped he would understand.  Kicks knew what she had done.  It was forbidden in the werewolf clans anymore.  Had been for many centuries.  It was as far as werewolf kind were concerned, suicide.

 

“When werewolves mate, we mate for life, and that’s not just a contractual thing like with humans, it’s a physical commitment.  We can only have sex with our mate, else we die.  If our mate dies, so do we.  In extremely rare cases a mate, usually a hunter, survives the death of a mate.  Part of them does die though.  They become rogues.” 

 

She closed her eyes as her head shook for a moment in thought.  She looked back at him with hurt eyes.  “They can never be in a clan again, because they cannot endure being in close proximity to werewolf kind.  It physically tears them.  The wolf in them has died, like my cousin Kicks, he was the dog we saw go by.  He can never become a wolf again, his other form is hideous, that is what a rogue is left with.  They hunt day walkers and servants of the vampires.  They wait for death, longing to be with their lost mate.  They suffer in pain the rest of their days, they are reckless, and successful vile killers.  That’s what they are left with.” 

 

Snow paused, she was still pinning Duncan down.  Duncan had a strange expression on his face.  Snow considered the expression for a moment, not knowing what to make of it, she went on with her explanation to Duncan.

 

“Renegades are a different breed.  Rogues follow rules, they hold to the laws of their former kind.  Renegades do not.  Some are rogues that have done, bad things.  Killed for pleasure for instance, some are hunters who choose to kill humans for other reasons, ones that are not day walkers or servants of vampires.”

 

She looked into his eyes again.  “They are what you would call assassins.  They take out bad people.  They are werewolves who enjoy killing humans, but use their passion in a productive way, still fulfilling the duty as protector.  They do so with the unofficial blessing of the clans, unless a renegade starts killing the innocent, they are left alone.  I fall into a different category all together.  I am outcast.  I can be neither rogue or renegade, for starters, I will not, cannot kill a human.  That is why I had to call my cousin to deal with Ed, I’m not allowed the honor of the hunt anymore.”

 

Snow sighed.  She released Duncan’s arms and simply sat on his lap, facing him. “When two werewolves mate, they bite each other, our fist bite is always on our mate, if we turn a human, the first one is always the one we have chosen as a mate.  There is a gland under our tongues, the blood of our first bite is taken in by this gland, it binds us to the other.” 

 

Duncan nodded.  “Keep going.”  He said with a metered voice.

 

“When you were paused, I was offered an out, a way to serve the clans and restore my name among them to some degree.  I can never set foot in a clan without permission.  Being outcast I was allowed to enter clans and receive support and help from them, now, I cannot.  Only a rogue or renegade is allowed to help me, should they choose to, their choice.”

 

Snow scoffed.  “Most rogues wouldn’t.  Renegades wouldn’t give a shit, but they’d expect something in return.  Making a deal with a renegade is not wise, especially for someone who wont kill a human, their deals usually involve that, or some quest that will typically end in your death, which is why they wont do it themselves.  The support I do have is sketchy at best because of the deal I made, I made a deal to protect you from Alexander and his minions, if we are attacked, I am allowed to contact an agent for outside support, I am not allowed to participate in this support in anyway, I can’t join them in fighting unless ordered.”

 

Snow put her face in her hands for a moment then she looked up at Duncan.

 

“You took some of my blood and put it in your mouth didn’t you?”  He asked bluntly.

 

Snow started to cry.  “Yes.  Robert took a syringe, pulled a small amount from your neck and injected it into the gland under my tongue binding me to you.  When you die, so do I, I can never mate with another werewolf.  For this one of my brothers is being allowed to mate with a born daughter from the Clay clan, binding the tear between the two clans inflicted by my mother’s disgrace.  In three months my seventh brother Isaac will be mated with Sable of the Clay, like him she is an alpha, my father will then be elevated in the clans and be allowed a seat among the Elders of Clans.”

 

Duncan sat and stared into nothing, he was looking towards Snow’s belly area, but his eyes weren’t focused.  He was gone from the room, many thoughts ran through his mind, he was sorting everything out, putting the pieces together and not approving of the picture that formed from them. 

 

Slowly after some time he focused and looked to Snow’s eyes. “You did this for your fathers honor, that was noble of you Snow.”

 

Snow laughed and looked off, it was not a laugh of humor, it spoke of other reasons. 

 

Tears were still running down her face, she looked back at Duncan, she shook her head slightly.  “No, I didn’t Duncan, I did it for you, I wanted to be with you.  I did it for selfish reasons, I did it so I had to stay with you.”'

 

Duncan was shocked.  He didn’t understand why she would have done such a thing to be with him at that time.  They were barely getting along, his distrust of her was blatant.  What Snow did next shocked him, even though it shouldn’t have.

 

Duncan was lost in thought when Snow’s mouth closed on his, he reacted without thought and opened his mouth.  Their tongues intertwined.  It was the most passionate kiss Duncan had ever had.  His wife had never kissed him like that, nor any girl he dated growing up.  His mind reeled.  When Snow broke the kiss she stood up. Duncan was slightly dazed for a moment.  Snow was looking at him, she looked somewhat meek.

 

“Wow, I’ve never kissed a girl with a tongue stud before.”  He said not sure what to think.

 

“Did you like it?”  Snow asked, she sounded distanced from him.

 

“Yes, I did, that was a very… that was an exceptional kiss.”  Duncan finally said.

 

“Glad you enjoyed it.  Don’t expect it again.”  Snow said with ice then turned and walked away heading for the stairs.

 

“Well, tell me, did you like it?”  Duncan called after her.  She didn’t respond and was gone up the stairs to her room.

 

Duncan sat alone on the loveseat.  “Women.”  He said.

 

An odor hit his nose, reminding him of what happened earlier when Snow was on him, he looked down at his wet lap, the urine smell coming from it. “And what the hell was with pissing on me?”  He said in a low volume to his lap. 

 

Shaking his head he went to the kitchen, procured a bottle of spray cleaner and blotted down the parts of the loveseat that Snow had moistened.  He looked at his pants, walking back into the kitchen he put the cleaner away and pulled his belt from his pants and emptied his pockets then went into the laundry room to disrobe.

 

Duncan took a quick shower, he looked at the clocks, it was still fairly early in the day.  Putting on his robe he decided he would get some work done for the lab and went into the den.

 

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In the morning Duncan awoke to a weight on his feet.  He looked down to the foot of the bed, there lay a white wolf across the bed.  He smiled at her, glad to see she was back to being his friend again. 

 

“Good morning Snow.”  Duncan said to her. She raised her head from her paws, looked at him then put her head back down.  Duncan got out of bed and threw on his robe.

 

“What do you want for breakfast?”  He said to her.  Her head stayed on her paws, her eyes blinked and looked around a bit then closed gain. “Ok, get some more sleep then.”  Duncan said and made his way to the kitchen.

 

Duncan cooked, set the table and called to Snow. “Breakfast Snow, it’s on the table whenever you’re ready.”  He said. 

 

Duncan sat and waited a bit at the table.  The wolf came from the bedroom over to the table.  She stood by the side of the table near where Duncan had set her plate of food.  The chair was in her way.  She looked over at Duncan.  Seeing he wasn’t getting the point she started looking between him and the food.

 

“Oh for crying out loud.”  Duncan started.  “Just change and sit down, is this your version of the silent treatment?”  He asked. 

 

Snow sat and looked at him, the food, him, the food.

 

“Fine, be that way,  you want to eat, you’ll either change or go hungry!”  He said, then picked up his plate and walked through the kitchen and sat in the living room.

 

Duncan returned at a quick pace when he heard the sound of something falling.  Snow had tipped the chair over and had her front paws on the table and was eating the food off the plate. “Bad wolf!”  Duncan scolded her.  “Get off the table!”  Duncan clapped his hands at her.

 

Snow turned and growled at him, showing her teeth, she started towards him.  Duncan backed up, then went back to the living room.

 

After he finished eating Duncan rinsed his plate and put it in the dishwasher, as he closed the door he looked towards the area of the island and the fridge.  His face said he was a bit misty.  His eyes moved around, he was thinking about when he and Snow had worked together in the kitchen after their first steak dinner together, how she handed him the dishes and he put them in the dishwasher.  It seemed so long ago now. 

 

He hopped Snow would get over whatever was making her act this way and get back to her old self.  Duncan shook himself back into the day and walked into the dining room. 

 

The table and floor were a mess.  Snow had spilled food on both and made a bigger mess as she cleaned it up.  All except her spoon had hit the floor, the glass of juice had been knocked over and she apparently had lapped it up, mostly. 

 

Duncan looked at the clock in the dining room and sighed.  He grabbed the dishes and went back to the kitchen and put them in the washer, wet a rag and went back to the dining room and slowly began cleaning up the mess Snow had made.  Once done he walked over to the stairs and looked up the well.

 

“I’m taking a shower Snow, I’ll be heading to the lab when I’m done so if you’re going to work today, be ready.”  Duncan announced up the stairs loud enough Snow was sure to have heard.

 

Duncan had his robe on and was drying his hair as he walked out of the bathroom into the kitchen to see if Snow had come down.  Not seeing her there he walked to the living room and checked there.  He was turning around to head to his bedroom to dress when he saw Snow, the wolf version of her, sitting at front of the door. 

 

The routine from breakfast resumed.  She looked at the door, then to him and back at the door several times.  Duncan stopped the towel on his head, pulled it down and put it around his neck.  He looked at her puzzled for a moment then what she was trying to tell him hit his mind.

 

“This is crazy, enough Snow, if you don’t want to be human around me, you want to give me this treatment or whatever it is, fine.  You know there’s a bathroom upstairs, you can use that, change up there, you don’t have to be seen in human form by me at all, but I am NOT opening the door so you can use the woods like a dog!”  Duncan said to her and turned to leave. 

 

He turned back to the wolf looking at him.  “And that’s final!”  He finished and this time did walk to the bedroom to dress, the door slammed after him.

 

Duncan walked into the kitchen, a rank smell hit his sense of smell, the air was moist from the steam of the shower, Duncan turned to the island and walked between it and the area the sink was at.  He bent slightly and pushed in the flap in the island that provided access to the trashcan inside.  The intensity of the garbage inside erupted into his face when he pushed the panel in. 

 

He groaned and opened the door to remove the can so he could change the bag, it had been a few days, he had forgotten to change it before trash day, yesterday.  He looked at his clothes, he wasn’t happy about changing the trashcan in his work clothes, he liked the idea of coming home to a garbage smell filled house even less. 

 

He pulled the handles of the bag up and it closed in on itself, he tied the two handles together and lifted the bag out, not wanting to risk any leakage, he immediately made for the front door, he almost stepped in the real source of stench.  Snow had left him a present on the laminate hardwood floor area in front of the door.

 

“For crying out loud!”  Duncan exclaimed.  He made his way around the pile and puddle and took the trash out.  “I should rub her nose in that.”  He said under his breath as he took the bag to the large plastic can outside. 

 

He went back to the house, looked at the mess on the floor.  He threw some paper towels down to absorb the puddle and tossed the wad of towels outside.  He walked over to the stairs and yelled up them.  “I expect you to clean up your own mess while I’m gone!”

 

He turned from the stairs and went back outside to the garage, unlocked the side door and pressed the button that opened the main door.  When he came around the truck he opened the door, Snow was already sitting inside, no longer a wolf.  He looked at her, snorted then climbed in the cab, started the truck and backed it out.  Once he turned down the drive to head to the lab he looked over at Snow.

 

“I expect that mess you left by the door cleaned up when we get back, I’m not picking up your shit missy.”  He said to her, his voice carried his anger.

 

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The drive to town was cold in the midsummer morning.  Duncan tried to talk to Snow, she wouldn’t even look at him.  When they were going though town, Duncan pulled over near the hardware store and got out of the truck.  Snow only looked out the window, the same as she had been doing the entire drive, she didn’t come in with him.

 

Duncan returned ten minutes later and climbed back into the cab, he put a small brown paper bag on her leg.  She didn’t move, still looking out of the window.  Duncan looked at her for a few moments, he shook his head after a bit and started the truck again and drove off.  Somewhere between town and Galt labs the brown paper bag fell from Snow’s leg, she didn’t even look at it, she kept her eyes aimed out the window, away from Duncan.

 

When they parked by the main entry into the largest building of Galt labs where the main office was, in the spot indicated as Duncan’s parking spot, Snow exited the truck quickly with her briefcase in hand, leaving the small brown paper bag on the seat where it fell.  Duncan picked the bag up, looked at it then grabbed an envelope from the dashboard of the truck. 

 

Duncan wasn’t too far behind Snow as they went up the stairs to the office area.  He was close enough to hear Connie greet Snow as she walked in.  Snow’s voice was polite and light as she greeted Connie back with a good morning.  By the time Duncan cleared the door into the office area he only caught sight of Snow’s back as she headed into her office. 

 

“Good morning Mr. Galt, you need anything right way?”  Connie’s smile greeted him as he turned to her.  Her eyes flicked over towards the right hall that was the side of the office area that Snow’s office was on then quickly back to Duncan.  Her head moved ever so slightly as she picked up on something being awry.  Most people never would have caught the slight change in her body language. 

 

“No Connie, not right now.”  Duncan replied to her.

 

“Very good sir, I’ll bring in a fresh cup in a moment.”  Connie said from behind the desk and looking back to whatever she was working on as Duncan turned and headed towards Snow’s office. 

 

There were really only two offices in the upstairs, his on the left side of Connie’s desk from her perspective, and the one Snow had.  This office was for Duncan’s assistant, which had been vacant for nearly a year when the man who formerly was in charge of research and development quit for medical reasons. 

 

The company was going through some lean times, business was down, but with the recent addition of seed production from hybrid vegetables, business was picking up.  He had more now than he could handle by himself with Connie’s help. 

 

He was just putting together an ad for someone to fill the slot when Snow came into the picture.  With her abilities and knowledge, she easily moved into the position and had advanced the company considerably in the few weeks she had been there. 

 

Her work on the lighting systems put Galt labs on the edge of releasing a new lighting system for hydroponic farms he was sure would take his company to records sales.  They would be ground breaking on a new seven story building that would cover some twenty acres for seed production. 

 

The advantage of his system was the seed stock plants could be grown in a shorter time and in a perfect environment.  Galt Labs would handle the breeding of new hybrids of vegetables, then grow the finished plant to a seed production age for the company they contracted with and provide them with a portion of their stock for sale to the general public. 

 

What they didn’t sell they would germinate and grow to supply their own seed sales, recently though, one company decided to have Galt labs grow all the seed of two types of vegetables for them.  They were producing more in their facility than the company could through normal seed production methods. 

 

Duncan now had a five year contract for this production.  Business was good, several other projects were taking off.  He had just hired replacements for employees that had left over the last several months, he had held off hiring for a while but now needed to add more positions.  He really didn’t have time for this trouble with Snow.

 

Duncan walked into her office.  She was behind her desk already and viewing things on her computer. “This is yours.”  Duncan said dropping the paper bag on her desk.  “A key to the house.”

 

Snow reached over and slid the bag to her without looking away from her screen.  “Thank you Mr. Galt.”  She answered in a monotone response.

 

Duncan stood there for a moment, considering what he would say. 

 

“Is there anything else Mr. Galt?  Business related?”  Snow said finally looking at her boss.

 

“No, not business related…”  Duncan had started.

 

“Then if you will excuse me Mr. Galt, I do have work to do before I head over to R & D.”  Snow said bluntly then turned back to her monitor and resumed typing. 

 

“As I was saying Snow… it isn’t exactly business related.”  He held out the envelope he had taken from the dash of the truck.  “This arrived for you yesterday, I wanted to make sure you got it.  Should be your drivers license.”  Duncan said in a business manner.

 

Snow turned from her computer long enough to take the envelope from Duncan’s hand.  She looked at the front, then with a finger opened it.  She pulled out the thick paper from inside and unfolded it.  Duncan watched as she read the enclosed letter then pulled off the license that was attached to the letter.  Snow palmed the license then looked at Duncan as though she were annoyed he was still there.

 

“Yes, that’s what it was, is there anything else, Mr. Galt.”  Her voice was nothing but ice.

 

Duncan considered saying yes, she could quit being an asshole to him, but he didn’t, instead he posed a question.  “You do know how to drive, don’t you?”

 

Snow blinked slowly at him before responding. “I don’t see how that is really any of your business Mr. Galt, but yes, I am quite capable of driving.”  Snow said.

 

Duncan stared back.  He cleared his throat before speaking again. “Well, having a valid drivers license and being able to drive is a requirement here at Galt labs, perhaps you missed that in the employee manual.  So it is my business.”  Duncan turned, he was done here, and walked out the door, leaving Snow to her work.

 

Once Duncan had left Snow stood so she could remover her wallet from her back pocket, opened it and put the license in one of the sleeves, returned the wallet to its place and went back to typing. 

 

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Duncan spent the next hour or so in his office, some of the time he spent on the phone, some going over sales projections and productivity reports.  Connie had put a fresh cup of coffee on the warming plate on his desk.  A fresh apple turnover along with it, home made.  She always brought in fresh baked goods to him in the morning.  She knocked on his door at some point, the coffee decanter in her hand.

 

“Mr. Galt, would you like a refill before I make a fresh pot?”  She asked.

 

He nodded and moved the cup from the warmer to the side of the desk she stood at while reading some emails.  Connie filled the cup and turned to go.  She looked back at him, Duncan looked up from his monitor.  Connie smiled at him, a business smile, then turned and walked out without saying a word.  Duncan didn’t think much of it and went back to his work.

 

Connie knocked on the door and looked in the window at the side of the door a short time later, she walked in and placed the days mail for him on the corner of his desk and turned to walk out.  Duncan took the pile and looked at the top letter then set them off to the side near where his coffee cup sat and he stood.  “I’m going out on the floor for a bit Connie, if anyone calls let them know and take a message.”

 

Connie looked back.  “Will do Mr. Galt.”  She replied and continued out to her desk. 

 

Duncan gathered some papers, drank some of the coffee then went to the door of his office.  When he exited Snow was standing at Connie’s desk.  Duncan heard her telling Connie she was going to the R & D building and probably wouldn’t be back until after lunch. 

 

Connie turned and smile kindly towards Duncan as he left.  Snow’s eyes moved over to Duncan and back again without stopping.  She handed Connie some papers and asked if she would scan them into the hard drive as Duncan left the office area. 

 

This routine continued over the next three days.  The only time Duncan saw Snow in human form was at work and during the drive to and from.  Duncan had tried to get Snow to shed some light on why she was being so cold towards him, he had called her into his office and had her close the door. 

 

Her response was emotionless and blunt, she simply said that unless he had some business matter to discuss, she would be returning to her desk as she was very busy.  Duncan had followed this up by saying he only wanted to talk to her, and she made that impossible at home as she was always in wolf form to which she responded that this was a place of business and that discussing personal matters on the job was unethical then she walked out of Duncan’s office.

 

Duncan wasn’t the only one who seemed to take issue with Snow’s recent frigid attitude.  Connie had developed a distance towards Snow.  Her customary cheery disposition was no longer present when she talked to her.  Duncan fist took note of the change when Snow had brought several envelops to Connie’s desk, requesting they be mailed.

 

“Very well.”  Connie said and continued her typing, not looking at Snow who stood at the high front of the reception desk, letters in hand waiting for Connie to take them.   

 

Connie stood, instead of reaching for the letters she turned away from Snow and went to the file cabinets along the back wall from the reception desk.  She pulled several folders from the cabinets and returned to her desk.  Snow was still standing where she had been, letters still in her hand.  Connie dug into the files and paid no attention to Snow, only gave a short statement as she began working from the papers in the folders.

 

“You can leave those in the out box, they’ll get mailed tomorrow.”  Was all she said, without stopping her work once.

 

“I really need these to go out today Connie.”  Snow replied, her voice suggested she was questioning the attitude of the receptionist.

 

Connie pulled away from the work she was engaged in, opened a drawer near where Snow stood, pulled out a roll of stamps and set them on the counter in front of Snow.

 

“There’s the stamps, mailbox is at the end of the driveway.  Mail will be here in half an hour unless the mailman is early.”  She said and turned back to her work.  “Now if you’ll excuse me, I am rather busy with things for Mr. Galt.”

 

Snow picked up the stamps and looked at them, then back to Connie for a moment.  She set her letters down and put the stamps on them.  Once done she moved to where Connie sat, reached over the front of the desk area that wrapped around the entire front of the room and set the stamp roll down near Connie.

 

“Thank you Connie.”  Snow said with a slight tinge of a depressed tone.  Snow walked out of the room and went to mail the letters.

 

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Friday that week after they arrived at work, Duncan left shortly after.  He didn’t return until nearly four in the afternoon.  At five they left for the day.  They had passed through town and were traveling down the two lane blacktop road when Duncan spoke to Snow, who he was now used to only staring out the side window.

 

“I modified the back door, you’ll be able to open and close it yourself from inside and out.  I’ll need you to put a paw on the access panel so I can code it to work for only you.  I’m not running no damn kennel.”  Duncan’s voice was cold.

 

Snow looked over at him, she looked at his face for a moment then down to the floor between them and finally back out the window with her hand on her chin.  There was nothing to say.  Duncan had been letting her out every morning, mostly because he didn’t want her to shit on the floor again.  He hated doing it, this amplified the sentiment. 

 

When they arrived home there was a package dropped at the front door.  It was about four inches thick and over a foot square.  Duncan picked up the package and let himself in, he pushed the door to close as Snow stepped forward, she caught it before it did and walked in, closing the door behind her. 

 

Duncan’s attention was on the box he held.  He walked into the kitchen and set the box on the island while Snow put her coat in the closet near the door.  She went upstairs to change, Duncan headed off to the den where he would work until he cooked dinner. 

 

Snow came downstairs and went to the den as she had every night since she had started staying in wolf form at home.  She laid down by the steps behind Duncan.  This had become her usual spot while he worked, at night she slept at the foot of his bed.  He no longer tried to talk to her. 

 

Around six thirty Duncan got up and left the den, Snow stayed, he would go and fix dinner then call her when it was done.  She listened as she heard the sounds from the kitchen.  She could smell the aromas of supper on the stove and hear the bottles, jars and dishes as Duncan cooked.  At one point she heard the sound of a box being ripped open, she figured he had opened the package that was dropped by the door.  Shortly after that the faucet in the sink gave it’s familiar sound, Duncan was washing something. 

 

Snow was in an animal state of half sleep when she became aware of the sounds of a fork sliding on a plate and other sounds that indicated Duncan was eating at the island in the kitchen.  Had she missed his call?

 

She stood  and trotted up the three steps of the den stair and headed for the kitchen.  She came up to the island and raised her head to look for her plate.  Duncan only had one plate of food on the island.  Snow lowered her head and looked around assuming he had already placed it on the floor for her to eat; that’s when she noticed in the usual spot he would place her plate after she came in, there was a large stainless steel dog dish with her name in black on it. 

 

She started to smile inside, that is, until she was close to the dish. 

 

She first became aware of an odd odor coming from the direction of the dish.  When she was able to see inside she knew what the smell was.  Kibble.  Duncan had filled her bowl with dog food and put a water dish next to it.  Snow turned and jumped, landing on the top of the island, knocking Duncan’s glass, plate and silverware onto the floor.  Only the salt and pepper shakers and the napkin holder remained. 

 

Duncan stood fast, the stool he was on toppled to the ground as he put his hands on Snows chest, she was growling at him since she jumped on the island, she snapped and barked at him, he didn’t pull back, instead he shoved hard.  Snow was unable to grip the polished surface of the island and slid off the end by the living room, landing on her side on the floor.

 

“Keep off the counters, if you’re going to act like a dog, I’m going to treat you like a dog.”  Duncan’s voice was angry.  Snow righted herself and came fast towards Duncan, growling and snapping as though she were about to attack.

 

His voice was jocular and mocking when he spoke to her and bordered on taunting.  The defining emotional undertone in his voice, anger.

 

“What are you going to do?  Duncan said to her.  “Nothing, that’s what, stand there and growl all day for all I care, you can’t attack a human, and I am very much human.  Werewolves are incapable of lying, you told me that, and also that you can’t kill a human.  So piss off fuzz-ball.”  Duncan finished and turned away from her and began cleaning up the mess on the floor.  Snow increased the threatening sounds and growling.  She moved forward and back at him repeatedly.

 

 When Duncan stood to put the dishes in the sink and get a rag to wipe the floor she moved around him and blocked his path, her mouth wide open, ears laid back hunkered down ready to pounce.  Duncan looked down at her, his face apathetic. 

 

He leaned forward a bit and stuck his arm right in front of her nose and mouth.  “Go ahead, bite, attack.”  He said in a cool calm tone.  “Go for it, bite the hand that feeds you, I dare you, come on, do it.”  Duncan taunted her.  He moved his arm forward more, placing it right in her mouth.  “Come on, I double dog dare you to bite down, break some flesh!  Draw my blood!”  He screamed with his face right at her nose.

 

Snow took in his scent, no fear detected, only the smell of anger filled her nose.  Snow stopped growling, pulled away from his arm and closed her mouth.  She looked into Duncan’s face.  Her eyes flared, then she turned around and took two steps forward to where the small pile of food left on the floor was and positioned her hind quarters over it. 

 

She lifted her tail and squatted sending a stream of urine onto the small pile and the floor.  She wanted to let Duncan know how she felt about being made to eat dog food, what she failed to anticipate was Duncan’s reaction. 

 

She was still squatting when she felt his arm come under her front left leg, closely followed by the same on her right.  He slid her back on the kitchen floor as she pawed hard on the slick surface to try and escape his grip.  He positioned his hands over her head, interlocked his fingers and pulled them down over her face forcing her nose down towards the floor. 

 

She tried to fight realizing what was about to happen, but it was too late, she only had the strength of a wolf now, he was easily able manhandle her, his hands covering her eyes, aiming her nose at her puddle.  He put his weight down on the front part of her body, her feet slipped sideways causing her nose to make contact with the small pile of food left on the floor.  He had her nose in the piss she had put there and used his hands to move her nose back and forth in the puddle and remains of the food.

 

“You do that outside!”  He said very loudly with is face right next to her right ear.  Once he was satisfied he had rubbed her nose in it enough he got off her and stood, reaching for a newspaper on the island, he rolled it up while Snow turned to face him.  He smacked the rolled up paper in his and a couple times. 

 

Snow stared up at him.  He wasn’t about to fall for her angry wolf routine anymore, she knew that and didn’t try.

 

“Get to the back door.”  Duncan said and smacked the paper against his other hand once more.  Snow wasn’t sure what he had in mind, what she did know for sure was that in his mind he wasn’t putting up with her antics anymore, so to appease him she quickly made for the back door.

 

Once at the back door Snow noticed a square metal panel had been installed at a height appropriate for her use.  Duncan was close behind. 

 

He instructed her to place to place a paw on the panel while he turned to a laptop computer that was set up on the top of a short cabinet next to the door.  She did as he said, he told her to hold it there while he typed on the keyboard of the laptop.  After several seconds there was a series of beeps. 

Duncan typed some more then said “Alright, take your paw away.”  She did what he asked.

 

“Now put it back on and see if it works, you’ll need to hold it there about two seconds.”  He said as he looked over.

 

Snow put her paw on the panel, a beep came from the plate then the door clicked and started to open, Snow backed up as the door swung in.

 

“There’s another panel just like that one on the outside to let you in.  Don’t let me catch you doing your business on the floor again.”  Duncan told her with force, his voice held the threat that if she did, her nose would end up in what she left behind. 

 

She was looking at him when the door beeped again and started to close.  Duncan reached down behind the panel and removed the cord that ran from the back of the laptop to it.  He closed the laptop and unplugged its power cord from the wall outlet it had been charging at, then walked out of the room.

 

That night after Duncan went to bed Snow went up to his bedroom door which was closed.  She jumped up with a paw on the wall and put her mouth on the knob as she usually did to open the door so she could take her place at the foot of his bed. 

 

She yelped as the knob burnt her mouth and recoiled from it.  She put a paw on the knob only to have the pain return.  Looking at the knob she realized Duncan had changed it, this one was made of fine silver.

 

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The next morning was Saturday, Duncan was up early.  Snow had been sleeping outside Duncan’s door across the outside of the threshold so soundly that she apparently missed him getting up and stepping over her.  She could hear voices from the front door.

 

“Thanks a lot Vic.”  She heard Duncan say.

 

“Hey no problem Duncan, thanks for the business.  Now I had my boys check the fluids and brakes like you asked, the front is good but by winter you may want to have the rear looked at.”  She heard another mans voice say as she stood and pawed her way towards the sound of the voices at the front door.

 

Duncan was standing inside with the door open and a medium height man with large glasses and light reddish hair stood at the entry.  He looked in his mid forties with a kind honest face and energetic manner about him.  He wore a tweed suit with a dark red tie and was handing something to Duncan.

 

“Now the tires are what came on it, they aren’t the best but they’re safe, being it’s an older used car we don’t usually replace those unless they are bad.”  The man was saying as Snow approached to about five feet from the interaction and sat down, front legs up, watching them. 

 

She sniffed the air to see what she could glean from the scents in front of her.

 

The man who Duncan called Vic noticed her. “Wow!”  He said looking at Snow.  “That’s a beautiful dog you have Duncan, very big, what kind is it?”

 

Snow groaned and pulled her head back at being called a dog. “She, “Duncan said emphasizing the word as he said it, “is a timber wolf.  Her name is Snow.”

 

“She.”  The man began still looking at Snow.  “A wolf you say, I didn’t know you could have one as a pet, she is a very attractive animal I must say, beautiful wolf Mr. Galt, very nice indeed.”  The man smiled and nodded his head as he looked at Snow, genuinely impressed by her.

 

Duncan smiled over at her.  She hadn’t seen his smile in some time.  “Well, not exactly a pet, she just showed up one day and started hanging around, you know how it is, once you feed them, she comes and goes as she pleases.”  Duncan’s smile was gone by the time he finished, his eyes a bit distant.

 

“Ah, I see, followed you home and can’t get rid of her.”  Vic said in a humorous manner.  “Sounds like my kids and every stray cat and dog in town.  Then we have to try and find a home for them.”  He laughed when he finished speaking. 

 

Then he went back to business. “Now it uses a bit of oil so you’ll want to keep an eye on that, as far as I know there is nothing major wrong with it, should last you a while if you take good care of it.  If anything acts up or if you have any questions just swing it by the lot and I’ll see what I can do for you.”  Vic said and shook hands with Duncan.

 

“We’ll do Vic, thanks again.”  Duncan said and the man turned and left.  Snow could see a newer car parked in the drive with another man behind the wheel.  She assumed he was Vic from Vic’s Auto Sales in town.  He seemed too honest to be a used car salesman. 

 

When Duncan closed the door she cocked her head at him and made a sound.  She wondered what was up, why was a used car salesman here?

 

She didn’t have to wait long for her answer.  Duncan tossed a key that landed in front of her. “I got you a car.”  He said as he looked at her, his tone bode no emotion.  “You can drive yourself to work now, you don’t have to ride with me, anymore.  The insurance is on my fleet plan with the lab, you can get your own if you want, or keep it on mine, whatever you want.” 

 

Duncan walked past her.  His gate was stiff. “I’m going to the lab, I’ll be back around noon some time.  You don’t need to go in.”  He said, undertones in his voice told Snow he wanted to be alone in the office. 

 

There would be people at Galt labs, tending to the plants, they ran two offset shifts so there was only a few hours a day when no one was there.  There wouldn’t be any R & D people or project crews there, only those that maintained the hydroponic systems.  Being Duncan would be in the office, no one would bother him.

 

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After Snow was sure Duncan had left for the lab she changed into her human form.  She looked in the mirror of the bathroom upstairs.  Sadness.  The face that looked back was full of it.  She was doing what she thought was best, given the situation she and Duncan were in.  She wanted to explain to him, why the change in her, her reasoning and logic, but that would have made the effort moot.  So she kept her silence. 

 

The time of peace in the land was going to be short lived.  Soon there would be that knock on the door or a phone call telling them of a mission.  Snow knew this was the calm before the storm.  She actually wondered why it was taking so long. 

 

That was the thing she feared the most, their first mission together.  She didn’t know what to expect now that she was worse than outcast and no longer being sent to observe and report, now she was expected to do field duty, and not as part of a hunt team.  She was expendable.

 

Snow dressed slowly.  She looked at the key several times.  She wanted to tell Duncan, even though she was distancing herself from him, she still enjoyed the ride to work with him.  She picked up the key, looking at it she sighed and went downstairs and outside. 

 

The garage was a two stall size but the car sat off to the far side away from the house.  Snow looked at it.  It was about a twelve year old car, two door and the door that she was looking at was a different color than the rest of the car. 

 

The car was some kind of green and the door was a red color.  Rust was clearly visible around the wheels and at the bottom of the drivers door when she came around to the drivers side.  The hood had dimples in it like it had been in a hailstorm, so did the roof which was losing some of its paint. 

 

She tried the handle and found the door wasn’t locked, when she opened the door she pulled away from the stench that came from inside.  The car lot had vacuumed the inside and cleaned it up some, even put some fragrance in, but with her keen sense of smell the vile odor of cigarettes still remained; she could also pick up the smell of vomit, urine and stale alcohol.  Whoever the previous owner was they apparently partied a lot. 

 

Looking over the inside she thought the car had belonged to a teenager or college student.  That seemed to fit with the smell and abuse the car seemed to have taken.  She sat down in the seat, her nose clenched, and put the key in the slot and turned the engine over.  It rolled a few times then came to life, a cloud of blue smoke pushed out from the back when it first started, then faded.  She pressed the accelerator down a bit to speed the engine up and listened.  Despite the car’s rough appearance, it sounded alright.

 

Snow shut the car off and got out, closed the door and looked at the car.  Slowly she turned and walked to the trunk, opened it and looked in.  A spare tire that needed air and a well used jack were in it along with a text book on business management.  This confirmed her reasoning the car had belonged to a student.  She closed the trunk and stepped back.

 

“Well, it is a car.”  She said and went back inside the house.  She already missed riding in Duncan’s 2012 Dodge Ram.

 

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Duncan returned as he said he would, just shortly after noon.  Snow watched him come from the garage to the house while sitting at the back corner of the house away from the garage in the yard.  He was apparently in a good mood as he whistled and sang as he went across the distance between the two buildings.  Snow got up and walked to the deck and put her paw on the panel beside the door in, with a beep of recognition the door opened and let her in.

 

Duncan was in the kitchen, still singing the words he knew and humming the rest when Snow walked in. 

 

As soon as he saw her the music stopped.  His face became that of a field agent again.  She turned and went back into the hall and up the stairs.  Duncan spent the rest of the day in the den working.  Snow returned while he was working and took her place by the stairs that led up from the den and laid there.  At some point Duncan turned to see if she was there.

 

“We have a lunch meeting with reps from Photon Lighting Monday, we’ll be meeting them at Olivia’s around one.  You’ll need your new designs and specs along with R & D’s projections for a delivery date, if we get a buy-in from them then we can start production.”  Duncan informed her. 

 

She lifted her head and looked at him.  She didn’t know if her wolf eyes showed she was happy or not.  They’d been working on this deal hard, this would be great news for the company if the Photon people were on board.  Their hard work would pay off in a major way. 

 

Snow wanted to make sure he knew she understood and was excited so she stood up on her front legs, put her nose in the air and gave a howling bark.  When she looked down from doing this, Duncan was already looking back at his computer.  Snow laid back down and put her head on her paws.  Not the response she was hoping for. 

 

That night, after she finished her kibble, Duncan was laying down on the couch watching television.  The house was secured and Duncan had had a couple bottles of beer when Snow walked in and laid down by the couch in front of him. 

 

Some movie was on; though he was watching it, Snow thought he really was unaware of what the movie was about.  At one point he reached down and started scratching her behind an ear.  She raised her head back, it felt good and she groaned in pleasure.  She arced her neck as he scratched, then suddenly, his hand stopped.  Snow looked up when he pulled it away.  Duncan wiped his hand off on his shirt and looked coldly at her then got up, went to the kitchen, and washed his hands. 

 

After he dried his hands he came back to the living room, grabbed the remote and turned the movie off then headed towards his room, stopping by the bathroom on the way. 

 

Snow got up and slipped into the open bedroom door while Duncan was in the bathroom.  She tucked herself into a corner, hopefully out of view.  She didn’t want to be locked out.  ‘Bastard’s silver doorknob’ she thought to herself. 

 

While she waited for Duncan to come in she thought back to how he had been scratching her then suddenly stopped, the look in his eyes.  She had wanted to curb the emotions between the two of them, apparently she was very successful in that endeavor. 

 

When Duncan entered the bedroom he noticed Snow.  A timber wolf was hard to hide.  He undressed and put on his robe then left the room.  Snow heard the click of the switch on the lamp in the den, so she rose and moved to her spot there.  Apparently Duncan was going to be working late, again.  He messed around with some papers then muttered to himself.

 

“Crap, where the hell is that.”  He said, giving the impression he couldn’t find some item.  He popped out of his chair and left the den.  Snow looked after him then lowered her head again and waited till he returned.  A few seconds later her head shot up and she stood quick as she heard the bedroom door click shut.  She looked over at the computer, the monitor was off.  He had faked her out.

 

‘Damn it!’ Snow thought to herself, that was way to easy for the human to pull on her.  She went up to the bedroom door and put a paw on it and pushed.  Closed tight.  She turned and started down the hall, then quickly spun around, came to a full run, jumped and pawed off from the wall across from the bedroom door and slammed her body into the door just above center, busting the wood that held the metal plate that kept the door closed and landed in the room.

 

“What the hell?”  Duncan shouted as he snapped upright and turned on the light.  Snow was in the middle of the room looking at him, she turned and walked over to the bed while his angry eyes glared at her, then she hopped up onto the bed, turned in a complete circle at the foot of the bed and laid down with a grunt.

 

Duncan threw back the covers and got out of bed, went to the door and closed it the best he could.  It still closed all the way, only it wouldn’t latch anymore, then he got back in bed and redid the covers; before he turned off the light again he looked down at the wolf at the foot of his bed.

 

“You know, I don’t get you, you wont talk to me, here you wont even show your human side to me yet you insist on sleeping on my bed.”

 

Snow raised her head and looked at him.  She stood and walked over to his face, licked his cheek then went back to the foot of the bed. 

 

“Fine, whatever.”  Duncan said gruffly and turned off the light.

 

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Monday, Snow was in the office early, she drove in before Duncan was even up.  Connie was there, Snow had often wondered how early she came in.  She was always there even when she and Duncan arrived early, and was usually there after they left. 

 

“Good morning Connie.”  Snow greeted her.  The older woman looked at her, a sour expression on her face, then resumed whatever it was she had been working on without responding to Snow’s greeting. 

 

Snow went into her office, as she moved behind her desk she noticed her trashcan was still full from the previous week.  Connie usually emptied the cans from the offices, apparently she had stopped doing that for Snow. 

 

Snow went to Connie’s desk to take issue with the treatment the woman was giving her. “Excuse me Connie.”  Snow began, Connie looked at her and didn’t say anything.  “My trash didn’t get taken out, and I don’t think my floor was vacuumed either.  Would you mind seeing to it that this gets done?”  Snow asked somewhat politely.

 

“Look missy, I’m Duncan Galt’s administrative assistant, not yours, I take care of his office and him, if you have a problem with that, talk to Mr. Galt.”  She answered in a cold manner.

 

Snow turned away, an angered look in her face and strode off.  She knew Duncan would side with Connie.  He wasn’t exactly please with Snow right now either, and for some reason, Connie had picked up on the tension between herself and Duncan and was letting her alliance be known. 

 

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Duncan arrived sharply at eight.  He had Connie tell Snow to come to his office.  They went over the designs, pitches, everything they would talk about with the Photon people.  Snow showed her PowerPoint she had prepared on her laptop.  Duncan approved most of it and pointed out some changes he wanted. 

 

Snow left shortly after to make the needed changes.  At a quarter past twelve Duncan came into her office.  He said they needed to get going soon and asked to see the changes.  Snow showed him what she had done.

 

“That’s good, I like it Miss Wolf, very good.  You did a great job on the presentation.”  He said to her.  There was no smile from him.  He really did like the work she had done, but remained at a distance.  This is what Snow had wanted, not what she desired, but what she felt was needed.

 

They arrived at Olivia’s Cafe about five minutes before the Photon people.  They were seated in a booth, both on the same side, when the people they were waiting on arrived. 

 

There was a man in his mid twenties that sat at the counter across from where they sat that was clearly annoying Duncan.  The man seemed to think he was funny, laughing loudly and cracking wise with the waitresses and everyone around.  Snow sat quietly and didn’t even look around, her face gave no emotion until the Photon people walked up.

 

“Duncan!  Good to see you again!”  One man said as he walked up, Duncan stood and shook hands with the man.

 

“Hello Mike, glad you could make it.”  Duncan said returning the man’s greeting.

 

“This is Randle Myers, he’s the head of our marketing and sales department, he’s the one you’ll have to convince.”  Mike said with a smile gesturing to the man behind him.  They took off their coats and hung them on the rack behind the booth while Duncan asked about their flight and the drive before returning his attention to the table.

 

“Mike, Randle, this is Snow Wolf, she’s my right hand lady in charge of R & D, she’s the one that will be convincing you how great this product will be for your company.”  Duncan said with enthusiasm. 

 

The men shook hands with snow. “Nice to meet you.”  Was exchanged between them as hand shakes were executed.

 

The man at the counter had said something he thought was funny again and laughed exaggeratedly.  Duncan and his two guests looked over at him.  The two men from Photon gave expressions that conveyed they weren’t please with the presence of the man either.

 

“No matter where you go, there’s always one.”  Mike said.  The three men laughed quietly to themselves, nothing like what the showman was doing. 

 

Snow and Duncan talked business with Mike and Randle.  The waitress came up and dispensed coffee and menus.  The man at the counter started laughing and looking around at the people around him.  Some of the customers near him smiled and nodded in a patronizing way.  Duncan’s table looked over in annoyance at the display he was putting on.  The waitresses smile showed her unspoken apology for the obnoxious man.

 

“I’ll be back when you’re ready to order.”  The woman said as she took her coffee decanter to other tables to offer refills. 

 

After their food arrived Snow gave her presentation  The looks between Mike and Randle and nods of their heads showed their liking for what was shown to them. 

 

When the waitress arrived to ask about desert for the table Mike and Randle declined and said they had to get going to catch a return flight then discussed briefly with Duncan how long it would take to get five thousand units ready for shipping.  Duncan’s face beamed, this was a considerably larger order than he was expecting.  Snow and Duncan consulted and Duncan returned their timeframe, which the other two men seemed to approve of.

 

“Sounds good Duncan.”  Mike said.

 

The party stood to shake hands goodbye. “My people will have a contract to you in a couple days Mr. Galt.”  Randle said with a smile as the two men shook hands.

 

“Pleasure doing business with you, have a safe trip.”  Duncan said.  The men took their coats as some pleasantries were exchanged as they left.

 

Snow moved to the other side of the wrap around booth away from Duncan.  He complemented her on her presentation but stopped short of smiling.  Snow was seated on the inside part of the end of the booth and the jocular young man came to the booth and sat himself down next to Snow and started laughing.  Duncan looked at him, the expression on his face said the young man might be losing some teeth soon.

 

“Hey dudes, what’s shaking?”  The man said, laughing as he spoke.

 

“This is a private table, if you don’t mind, you’re not invited.”  Duncan said.

 

“Duncan.”  Snow said in a hushed and hurried voice.

 

Duncan looked at her.  Her eyes darted from the table to Duncan and back down again repeatedly.  He took from her expression that she knew the man.  Duncan looked back to the annoyance across from him.

 

“Who are you and what do you want?”  Duncan asked in an agitated voice.  He wasn’t pleased with Snow, and he didn’t approve of her apparent friend.

 

“Dude, bro, I don’t want anything from you, dude.”  The man laughed more as he spoke.  He looked around the cafe again and laughed at nothing.

 

“Alright then, who are you?”  Duncan asked becoming more agitated.

 

The man laughed loudly. “Man, dude you’re some kind of intense aren’t you?  Chill it Dunk-ster.  My name is ‘The Stream That Flows Gently Through The Woods’.  The young man said raising his hands and moving them in front of him and speaking dramatically to give himself a mysterious sound.  “But, everyone calls me Max.”  He said smiling and nodding, looking from Snow to Duncan.

 

Duncan stared back leaving an awkward silence for a moment. “Alright, Max, what do you…”  Duncan cut himself off short.  “Why are you here?”  He changed his question to.

 

The man laughed again and looked around.

 

“I’m your contact dude, I’m the field supervisor bro, Robert put me in charge of you two dude!”  The man said in an excited voice and laughed at the end.  “Isn’t it wild dude?”  He resumed laughing. 

 

Duncan fought the urge to rip his head off. 

 

“Robert sent you?  Robert who?”  Duncan asked barely able to contain his anger.

 

“Robert Clay dude, you know Robert, right?”  Max started laughing, repeating the question as he did and smacking his knee.  “Dude, that’s a good one, do you know Robert.”  Max laughed some more.

 

“You’ve got to be kidding me, you’re the one I’m supposed to hunt with?”  Duncan asked, his voice filled with angst and disgust. 

 

Snow was looking down, she looked small even for her petite size.  Duncan looked over at her, Max laughed and started his annoying banter again.

 

“Hunt?  Bait don’t hunt bro, bait is the bait dude, what do you mean hunt with?  You the bait.”  Max started laughing hard.

 

Duncan returned his eyes to Max, a concerned question on his face. “What do you mean bait?”  He asked.

 

Max stopped laughing, slowly his chronic grin died away from his face. “You don’t know, dude?”  Max said and his head turned quickly between Snow and Duncan several times ending on Snow.

 

“Sadness, dude here doesn’t know?”  Max had become serious now.  His voice lowered in volume.  “Sadness?”

 

Snow shook her head which was bent down, she raised her head to look at Max, her face was the epitome of sadness. “No, Max, Robert never debriefed him, he doesn’t know yet.”  Snow returned her head to its down position, looking to her lap.

 

“Dude.”  Max said.  He had a stunned look on his face as he looked back at Duncan.  “I thought you knew.”

 

“Knew what?”  Duncan asked, agitation still in his voice.

 

Max shook his head.  “Look what you’ve done, you two, made me get all serious in the middle of the day.”  Max said and stood up. “Meeting at your house tonight Dunk-ster.  Seven pm, be sure you’re there, Robert wants to speak with you.”

 

Before Duncan could say another word, Max tossed a hundred dollar bill on the table and walked out the door.  Duncan saw him out the cafe window.  He went to Duncan’s truck and opened the door. “What the hell is he doing?”  Duncan started.

 

Snow put her hand on his arm from across the table and looked softly into his eyes.  Duncan calmed a bit when she did this.  He was taken back.  There was fear in Snow’s eyes.

 

Duncan and Snow headed for the truck, they had rode together to the café.  When Duncan opened the door there was a white legal sized envelope on the seat.  He climbed into the truck and opened the letter.  Inside was a CIA letterhead on a single page and a note signed by Robert Clay.

 

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On the drive back to the lab Duncan asked Snow what else he wasn’t being told.  Snow looked over at him. “I can’t, orders, Robert has to tell you.  You worked in this field before, it sucks, I can’t tell you.”  Then she turned and looked out the window.  Duncan said more but Snow failed to respond.

 

Snow went into the offices with Duncan.  She walked into her office to put away the laptop and to call R & D to make sure they had everything they needed to start production for Photon.  She came back out to check her mailbox on Connie’s desk, only it wasn’t there.

 

“Connie?  Where’s my mailbox?”  Snow asked.

 

She looked over at her.  Her look was blank as she pointed to the floor next to the desk.  Down on the floor in the corner was the small letter page sized metal holder that had Snow’s name on it.  Snow looked at it. 

 

She knew Connie didn’t do that, Duncan had, he was pissed she hadn’t filled him in, despite orders.  She bent over to pick up a letter in the box, as she did Connie tossed more mail for her at the box, just missing her head but landing in the box.

 

“Mr. Galt put it there.  I didn’t object.”  Connie said to her. Snow grabbed the mail and started for Duncan’s office. “He’s not in right now missy.”  Connie stated.

 

“Where is he?  Production?”  Snow asked, her voice carrying her anger.  At home was one thing, here was another.

 

“Didn’t say, he said he was going out, and if you asked, he wasn’t available.”  Connie had turned to face Snow, she was glaring at her.

 

Snow looked at her, trying to figure out the hatred Connie had for her.  Snow had done nothing to her.  Anything between Duncan and her had nothing to do with Connie.  Had Duncan talked to Connie about her?  “Why are you treating me like this?  What have I done to you that warrants you being so mean to me?”  Snow asked.

 

Connie came forward to the front of the desk.  “What has Duncan done to you that warrants you treating him like you do?”  Connie shot back.

 

“What has Duncan said to you?”  Snow inquired, figuring he had said something based on Connie’s question.

 

“Nothing.  But I’m not blind, I see what’s going on, I can tell you’re being a shit to him.  Duncan Galt is a nice man.  I’ve been around him many years now, I can tell when something is bothering him, when he’s hurting.  I have seen him hurt the most since you’ve started being a shit to him, missy.”  Connie’s voice was pure venom.

 

“You don’t know the situation, it’s complicated.”  Snow said looking down.

 

“Complicated, no, it’s not as complicated as you think, no more than you make it.”  Connie replied.

 

“I can’t explain it.  It’s mine and Duncan’s business, not yours.”  Snow said looking back at Connie with her own venom.

 

“I’ve been around the block a few times young one, I know what’s going on, I can read it in you.  You’re no mystery to me.”  Connie retorted.

 

Snow guffawed.  “You have no idea.”

 

“Really?  You are feeling sorry for yourself and taking it out on Mr. Galt.  You’re in a situation you created for yourself, not Mr. Galt, and he is bearing the burden of your own disapproval of yourself.  You’re upset about the results of decisions you’ve made.”  Connie blinked slowly at Snow.

 

Snow didn’t respond.  Though Connie couldn’t know the situation, about being bound to Duncan, being disavowed from a clan, everything Snow was going through, she was right.  Snow was disappointed in herself for the deal she made.  It was her decision, but what choice did she have in the end.  She could have refused, what would she have lost?  She may not have been ordered away from Duncan.

 

She considered the events. No, it would not have ended well had she refused.  She would have been retired.  Night Harvest would have come for her from across the water.  He would have retired her.  At least she had as long as Duncan had in life now.  It was the best she could hope for.

 

Snow sighed deeply.  When she looked at Connie there was no venom, no anger in her look. “I don’t deny that.  But there is more than that, sometimes you make choices beyond yourself.  Sometimes to protect something you care about, you have to make yourself suffer.  Make someone you want to protect hate you for their own good.” 

 

Snow hesitated a moment as she broke eye contact with Connie, looking to the countertop.  “It’s not fair to either of you, but you would be selfish if you didn’t, if you allowed them to remain close when they needed to separate themselves from you for their own good, for their life, it’s how you show how much you truly do care.”  Snow said, her voice carrying her namesake.  She didn’t wait for Connie to respond, she turned and started for the door.

 

“I’m not feeling well, I’m going home.  Goodbye Connie.”  She said.

 

Connie stared at the door after Snow left.  She considered Snow’s words.  After a minute she looked towards the hall that led to Snows office, then in the direction of Duncan’s, considering the events of the day, things she knew, a world of the past.  Finally she turned back to the file cabinets and went back to work.

 

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Snow was sitting in one of the recliners in the living room.  She was dressed in her tight black combat clothes only without the sword and the utility belt.  Duncan came into the room.  He knew the only reason she wasn’t in her now usual form around the house was because the boss was coming. 

 

When he passed in front of her to take up the other recliner he noticed on her shirt there was a patch on the left side of her chest, just above her breast.  There was some sort of insignia on it and what looked like writing of some kind, though it looked like no language he had ever seen.

 

“Nice to see you at home.”  Duncan said as he took to his chair.  Snow remained reticent and stared forward.  Her face cold and hard.  Though she wasn’t in wolf form, nothing had changed.

 

Just as the grandfather clock in the living room chimed for the second time the doorbell rang. “Seven bells, right on time.”  Duncan said looking over at Snow.  She didn’t move.  Duncan sighed and rose to answer the door.  When he opened the door, Director Clay was standing in front, behind him were Max and two other people, one man, one woman.  They were all dressed as Snow was, except for Robert, he wore his usual suit and tie.

 

“Good evening Mr. Galt.”  Robert said, his voice and face both serious. Duncan nodded as he looked past him and Max to the others with him. “May we come in?”  He asked.

 

“Oh, yes, sorry, please come in Director Clay.”  Duncan turned to let the people pass.  When he looked over in Snow’s direction she was standing, straight backed arms to her side eyes front.  She was at attention.

 

Robert and Max took their places on the large sofa while the other two looked at the room and moved to the loveseat.  “Have a seat Sadness.”  Robert said to Snow as Duncan joined them and took his place in the remaining spot.

 

Director Clay looked at Duncan.  His face said what he was about to tell Duncan, he wouldn’t like.  Robert’s eyes went to the other two across from him then back to Duncan.

 

“You’ve already met Max here.”  He began looking back at the obnoxious man from the cafe.  “This is Field Grass and Moon Current.”  He continued, pointing to the woman and man respectively.  “Their human names are Julia and Christopher.  They’re two of the field hunters you will be working with, Max here is the operation commander.  He’s one of my best men in the field.”

 

Duncan looked over at Max.  He wasn’t jocular now.  He looked all business.  The other two had similar expressions, professional.  

 

“You and Sadness have special permission from my agency to have help, you’re going to need it.”  He looked over at Snow.  “I assume you have filled him in as to when and what kind of assistance you two can expect given your positions in our operation?”  He asked her.

 

“Yes sir.”  Came Snow’s proper answer. 

 

Robert looked back at Duncan.  “You do what these agents tell you, you’re out of your league here, this isn’t anything like what you have done as an agent before, we clear?”  He said to him.

 

Duncan nodded.  “Yes, we’re clear on the command structure, what we aren’t clear on is what exactly is my job in this ‘operation’ you’re talking about.”  Duncan said in a tone that smacked of distrust and suspicion. 

 

Robert looked back at Max, then returned to Duncan. “I understand my associate here spilled the beans some, as it goes.  This is something fairly new for us in Division W.  We don’t use humans in our operation.  Normally we follow them and wait for the vampires to show, to attack.  This time we are using our own bait.  You.”  He said and waited giving Duncan time to respond.

 

“Why me?  Why this time?”  He asked.

 

“It’s simple really, you have the attention of a major player.  He wants you dead, only he wants to gloat over you, exact his revenge for what your team did.  He especially wants you because without you and what you did, putting the tracking device on your wife, you never would have been able to accomplish what you did.”

 

Robert’s eyes were hard.  “What you accomplished in the field before returning home to find your wife and daughter has some other big players pissed.  Plus there is the matter of your work after you left the company.  You have made a light that is a weapon against his people, you are a threat to him and his master’s goals.”

 

Duncan nodded his understanding of what the Director explained.

 

“We are going to use you, a live human, to draw out small recruiting groups of vampires so we can hunt them down.  We hope to take out enough of these recruiting parties to attract Alexander’s attention and draw him out.”  He told Duncan.

 

“These recruiting parties, they are what Alexander is using to replenish his coven?”  Duncan asked.

 

“No, Alexander has his own people for that, he likes to get smarter people for his own coven, he prefers people from the big city, powerful people.  They serve a better purpose in his plans and can open the doors to others who trust these people so he can harvest souls.”

 

Robert looked over at Snow then continued.  “Recruiting parties are for harvesting souls for the most part.  Occasionally they will find someone that interests Alexander, but usually they are turned and allowed to kill some, maybe bring a few others into the party only in the end to be left do die.  Once destroyed the darkness has their souls.”

 

The atmosphere in the room was dark as Duncan listened.

 

“Even as an undead, the soul is still bound to them.  Only when a vampire is physically destroyed does the soul get released or judged.  That’s when the darkness takes them, and when the former human fully sees the reality of the deal they have made.”  Robert put his hands in front of his face with the index fingers pointing up and pressed together touching his nose, thinking. 

 

He needed Duncan to understand what they were dealing with.  What was expected of him all with him willing to cooperate.

 

“What the vampires call a recruiting party, we call a harvesting party.  The parties usually consist of few, two to maybe as many at ten depending on the situation.  They move around to different areas, stick to small communities mostly, sometimes venturing into larger cities when they want to make a big haul for the darkness.”

 

Duncan looked around at the others with them, trying to read their faces.

 

“Remember, a soul contract has to be willing, if it’s not, no soul and these vampires don’t have a lot of time to work with the recruits.  They want to get them to commit willingly then harvest them fast and move on.  It works like this, Sadness explained about the hive mentality right?”  Clay asked Duncan.

 

“Yes, they learn from the people they turn, absorb their memories.”  Duncan replied.

 

“Absorb their mind is more accurate.  That’s how recruiting party members learn their way around a new area, who to seek out for a contract.  They will move into an area and pick out someone they think can provide the needed information.  They want to find the bad people who are the easiest to get to follow the darkness.”

 

“The gullible and the greedy.”  Max interjected.

 

 “Right.”  Robert agreed.  “So, they feed off of someone that they see as a good person, find out who they don’t like, people in the area that they consider bad.  Then they meet these bad people, the unsavory in the area and build a relationship.  They show them things, get them to agree to be turned, usually with promises of money, power, sex or position in their area.  Once these recruits get a taste of the good life as they perceive it, they become all too willing to bring in their friends.  You with me so far?”  He asked Duncan.

 

He nodded yes.

 

 “They get them feeding on the innocent.  Now, these new recruits aren’t connected with the hive mind yet, it takes a week to fully turn and the Light to be driven from them, for them to become undead.  Even then it takes about a month for them to be able to connect fully with the hive mind of the vampires, until then the information flow is only one way, to the original party members and whom they serve, the recruit isn’t part of the connection yet, they don’t know what their recruiters are planning, they are totally dependent on their vampire masters that recruited them to survive.”

 

Duncan looked at the others in the room.  Their faces were somber, he could tell they had seen this scenario many times.  This is part of what Duncan and his men had uncovered so many years ago now.  Listening to Robert give the inside information sent chills down his spine.  He listened as he went on, grasping more and more of what they were up against.

 

“They still have their souls, in reserve as it were.  The only thing required of the new recruits once they have accepted their contract is for them to be destroyed in order for the soul to be harvested, vampires aren’t too good at killing their own, using holy water, stakes and such.  So typically what they do is get the recruits to stay outside and bask in the morning sun, while they are safe inside someplace and don’t have to watch.”

 

Duncan shook his head, the sound of what he was hearing made him sick, he never thought of vampires as so vile before, they were even more disgusting then he had known.

 

“At about three weeks, before there can be a chance of the recruits being able to connect fully to the hive mind and know what their masters are going to do, they have a celebration.  They will tell them various things, often it’s a formal welcome party that is being thrown.  They withhold letting the recruits feed for a day, as a new vampire they need to feed everyday.”

 

Duncan looked off, was this why his wife fed on their daughter?

 

“A fully mature vampire, which take about a year, sometimes longer for some, can go about a week without feeding, elder ones can go almost a month, but never more.  So when this party is held the recruits are hungry, they will do anything their masters say, without question.  What they do, is get them to feed on animals, usually rabbits since they are one of the most docile animals around, they never pick an animal that is predatory in nature.”  Robert scoffed.

 

“The last thing they want is for the recruit to have the mind of a hunter.  Rabbits are usually easy to come by, a sheep will do also.  You know what happens when a vampire feeds on an animal right?”  He asked Duncan.

 

“Yeah, they get the mind of an animal, Snow explained that to me.”  He answered.

 

Robert nodded.  “So, at this party they have a good old time, wine is the favored drink, they can get drunk, but this is done because it is part of their sacrificial ritual to the darkness, marinating the sacrifice in wine, that’s where the recruits consuming wine falls into the ritual.  They are being ‘covered in wine’ in a convenient way.”

 

“At some point while the celebration is going, members of the party will actually pour wine over the recruits head, and they will think nothing of it, not realize they are being prepared for sacrifice.  The recruits will be told there is a feast being prepared for them.  When a few hours remain before daylight the feast is presented to them.  The animals are brought out and the recruits are told this is a special treat for them, depending on the type of people recruited, they will be told that drinking the blood of animals is like a drug, that they will have a wonderful trip from doing it.”

 

There was a few snorts from the others in the room.

 

“Whatever the situation, the recruits trust their masters and have no reason to doubt them and are very hungry by now and eagerly dine on the animals.  The effect of the animal blood isn’t instant, it takes about half an hour to take effect, usually by then the recruits have drained several animals, they feel good.  The party members encourage them, make them feel like they are the center of attention, often praising them for the way they can down the blood in the animals, they try to get them to drink as much animal blood as they can.  Once the effects of the animal mind takes a hold, they move around and act like the animal they consumed.  Hopping around like rabbits.”

 

Robert leveled his eyes on Duncan.  “Rabbits love sunny spots, the trap that was set now has its victims and the sacrifice is ready to be harvested.  The recruiting party members leave the recruits out in a field and head to safety.”  Robert sat and waited for Duncan to consider all that he’d been told.

 

After a few minutes, Duncan returned his attention to him. “So where do I fit into this?  How do I become bait?”  Duncan asked in a reserved voice, not anxious to hear the answer.

 

“The recruits need to feed.  The recruiters want to get as many souls as they can before they have the party.  So for the first two to three weeks they build their numbers, make contracts and keep the recruits fed.  They will descend on unsuspecting victims at night.  They want to keep as out of sight as much as possible so they look in out of the way places for lone people or couples.  One human can feed several new vampires, maybe as many as five.  We put you out in the woods, alone, in an area we suspect the party has the recruits hunting.  When they come for you, we take them out.”  Robert said in a calm cold voice.

 

Duncan looked over at Snow.  She was looking to the ground, any color she might have had in her face was gone.  She had her shoulders hunched forward with her hands clasped and stuck between her legs.  Duncan didn’t like the thoughts that were going through his mind right now.  He feared he was beginning to understand the sacrifice Snow had made, why she had been distancing herself from him.  He kept his eyes on her while he spoke.

 

“And what happens to the bait?”  He asked with his own voice as cold as liquid helium.

 

Robert inhaled and let the breath out. “What we intend to do is to have you do this as many times as we can.  We will have a car set up for you to try and make it to while the team you’re with takes out the vampires.”  He said.

 

Duncan turned his head fast to Robert.  “That isn’t an answer to my question, I asked you what happens to the bait?  If the bait doesn’t make it to the car, what will happen to me?”  Duncan asked forcefully.

 

“Usually, even though we are nearby, in a situation where we follow and wait for them to attack, the people they go after don’t survive.”  He reluctantly answered, his eyes moved around when he finished, not wanting to look into Duncan’s

 

“So, basically, in a nutshell, my job is to die.”  Duncan said bluntly.

 

Robert looked up at Duncan, squared his eyes on his. “No, your job is not to die, your job is to make it to that car and get inside and keep your ass there till we come to get you.  Like I said, we have never done this before, we wont just be following them, this time we will have people in wait on the ground.”  He said motioning to Julia and Christopher.

 

Duncan looked over at the two people on his loveseat.  He remembered back to when Snow had him pinned on that very loveseat.  How she had acted, the things she had said and done.  Had her actions been a result of her knowing what was expected of him?  Had she known all along?  Or did she only recently find out? 

 

He kept these questions to himself.  He suspected though that she had found out the night she was bound to him.  That deal was made so she would fight as though her life depended on keeping Duncan alive, for the best chance of success so they would be able to repeat this exercise many times.  Making Snow’s life dependant on him staying alive ensured her diligent cooperation. 

 

She had been an outcast from werewolf society, she had no purpose, not being able to be rogue or renegade, this gave her a purpose.  As long as Duncan survived.

 

 

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