“My name’s not Anna.”
He gave me a squeeze. “I figured that out a while ago.”
There was another long, silent pause. He wasn’t going to ask me. He was waiting for me to tell him myself, to make the choice to share that part of me.
“It’s Tina,” I told him. “Christina, if you want to be technical about it. But I was named after my mother, and we couldn’t have two Christinas in the house. And I refused to be called Chrissie. Since then, I’ve been called Anna, Melissa, Brandy, Lisa, and Tess. I was Anna the longest.”
“What do you want me to call you?”
“When you’re not calling me Rabbit, you mean?”
He laughed into my skin, a canine whickering noise that was more wolf than man.
“Tina.” I sighed. “I would really like to be Tina again.”
He kissed the nape of my neck, sending a pleasant warm tingle down my spine. “I like Tina, too.”
I woke up to the sound of Caleb whispering, “You’re kidding me!”
I rolled over to see his bare back as he hunched over the edge of the bed. He was talking into his cell phone, muttering furiously under his breath.
“You’re kidding me,” he said again.
I sat up in bed, swiping at my face. I padded toward the bathroom to brush my teeth as Caleb continued muttering into his phone. He wrapped up the phone call by sighing and saying, “She’s going to be hell to live with after this.”
I arched an eyebrow and spat out the excess toothpaste. He ended the connection and flopped back on the bed, pinching the bridge of his nose.
Caleb sat up, rolling his eyes. “That was Merl’s office. Mort showed up at the airfield last night, just like you said he would. He checked in to the hospital this morning for presurgery testing. Merl is expressing his gratitude with a rather large check.”
My lips wanted to twitch into a grin, but I tamped it down. “Gloating would be an ugly thing to do even when I was insanely right, wouldn’t it?”
“Yes, yes, it would,” he said, giving me an exasperated look.
He hauled himself out of bed and helped me gather up our bags. We completed our various packing-up chores side-by-side, organizing the files, securing the equipment, checking under the bed and in the bathroom for forgotten items. Caleb was sulking, but it was a quiet kicking my own ass sort of self-flagellation to which I was not accustomed. He wasn’t throwing things around the room, breaking my stuff, or sending me wounded-baby-deer looks because I was so very cruel. He just silently worked through the moving-out checklist with his mouth clenched shut. As we walked out of the motel room, I bumped him with my hip. His lips quirked, but he actively suppressed the smile. Walking toward the truck, I bumped him again. He laughed, throwing his arm around my shoulders.
“We did the right thing, Caleb. We let Mort make the choice for himself. I’m sorry I went about it in a dishonest way, trying to sneak him out of the gas station. But it all worked out in the end.”
“But what if it hadn’t?” he asked.
I smiled in what I hoped was a winsome, nonobnoxious manner. “Well, then, I would owe you a rather large apology.”
“I know you don’t agree with what I do.”
“Not in all cases,” I protested. “But I think that you should check into backgrounds and circumstances a little more before you agree to look for someone. There are people out there who deserve to be left alone.”
He nodded. “I’ll think about it.”
It was probably the maximum amount of progress I was going to make, so I would take it and run. “Who was right?” I asked, preening just the tiniest bit.
“You were right,” he said, standing up.
I fairly skipped to stand in front of him, bouncing on the balls of my feet. “Who is smarter than you?”
He crossed his arms over his chest and sighed. “You’re smarter than me.”
I kissed his chin, because that was as high as I could reach. “Don’t you forget it.”
“Was that last bit really necessary?” he grumbled.
“Hey, I had a whole ‘I Told You So’ dance choreographed. You’re lucky I’m sparing you that,” I told him. He harrumphed as he helped me climb up into the truck. “It was set to the tune of ‘Single Ladies.’ ”
Caleb narrowed his eyes at me. “You are evil. Pure evil wrapped up in a tiny pixie package.”
“But I was a correct evil pixie package,” I said.
From Some Senders, All E-mails Are Red-Flagged
I celebrated the arrival of Merl’s very large check by finding the world’s only Laundromat-slash-Internet café and checked my e-mail while our delicates spun dry. Caleb was meeting with someone about a case that was “too preliminary” to discuss with me. He’d asked me to stick close to the motel, but I needed to check my private e-mail address, and we were running low on clean socks. I was more comfortable with using the café’s computers to check the secure server I used for Red-burn’s e-mails. I hoped that she’d sent some update on my paperwork.
When I typed my information into the log-in fields, my in-box had sprouted new messages like acne on a One Direction fan. Thirty-eight new messages starting weeks before, right around the time I ran out of Emerson’s and saved a werewolf. The subject lines were all the same: “FOUND YOU, BITCH.”
I knocked my foam coffee cup from the table, splashing scalding liquid across my thighs and barely noticing the burn. My stomach pitched, and the floor seemed to tilt underneath me. Hands shaking, I clicked on the first one. It was short and to the point: “I found you, bitch. Did you really think you could run from me? Do you think living in the ass end of nowhere will keep me from finding you? Don’t you worry, I’m on my way. We’ll be seeing each other real soon.”
Glenn was smart enough not to sign it, and the e-mail address was listed as
/* */ . I knew he would be smart enough not to send the message from his home computer. If by some insane chance I went to the cops, they wouldn’t be able to trace it back to his IP address.
Also, I found it a little distressing that there were so many people using gotchubitch as an e-mail user name that Glenn had to add numerals to it.
I highly doubted that this was some unfortunate cyber-coincidence, a misdirected message, or a prank. I was able to fight through the initial wave of panic, the cold flush that spread from my heart to my limbs, making it impossible to move my fingers the way I should. I knew this was coming, I reminded myself. Red-burn had warned me that he was getting closer. This e-mail campaign was most likely a bluff. He was probably thousands of miles away. Because if he’d really found me, he would be here, right now, telling me what an ungrateful cow I was as he dragged me back to Tennessee.
I took a long, lung-stretching breath and forced it out through my nostrils, then clicked on the other messages. The next few e-mails were more conciliatory. He missed me. His life just didn’t work without me. He didn’t know why I’d run away, but he would do anything he could to make our relationship work. Wouldn’t I please contact him so he would stop worrying about me? The messages ran in cycles—angry, demanding, pitiful, lonely, and then back to vicious and threatening.
He couldn’t scare me, I told myself, hoping that eventually, I would believe it. I could fight him now. I could escape before he even realized we were in the same room. I wasn’t the same naive, trusting girl he’d married. He didn’t even know me anymore. I wasn’t that same person. And there was Caleb to consider.
Oh, God, what if he hurt Caleb? I knew it wasn’t likely, what with the whole turns-into-a-giant-apex-predator issue. But even werewolves had to yield to bullets, and Glenn wasn’t above bringing a gun to a werewolf fistfight.
Still in a bit of a daze, I gathered our clean clothes together, folded them on automatic pilot, and shuffled back to the motel. In an unexpected turn of fortune, I was able to walk a city block in a rural small town without being attacked or harassed by hooligan lumberjacks. I tried to appear as calm as possible as I walked back to the motel. It wouldn’t do to let Caleb see me freaked out. He would ask all kinds of questions, and I would give him answers, because my verbal filters were shaky enough that I’d tell him everything. And then . . . I didn’t know what would happen then.
I stopped at the tiny general store and found turkey jerky and some coffee, because Caleb hated the brand that the motel kept on hand. I took several deep breaths outside of our motel-room door and pushed it open with a pleasant smile fixed on my face.
I found Caleb tossing our clothes into our bags. The laptop and the rest of the equipment were already packed and sitting by the door.
“What’s going on?” I asked, dropping the grocery bags by my laptop.
“We’re going home,” he said.
For a terrifying moment, I thought he meant the valley. How was I supposed to explain that? How was I going to casually drop, Oh, by the way, I know your family. And that you’re a supernatural creature. Surprise!
“H-home?” I asked.
“Well, home base. Suds’s bar in Fairbanks, the Suds Bucket. I’ve had a couple of urgent e-mails from him about a few cases, so I need to go check in.”
“Can’t you just call him?” I asked, thinking about this new development. Fairbanks would bring me closer to Anchorage but not close enough. It was still a six-hour drive in good weather.
“Suds is getting anxious about a couple of guys we’re looking for, big payouts and no developments. So I need to go talk shop with him for a while. We’ll leave at first light, stay there with him in a non-motel room, which will be awfully nice. It’ll only take a few days, and then we’ll be on the road to Anchorage, just like I promised.”
“OK,” I said, nodding, suddenly distracted by the neatly folded pile of fresh laundry. One of Glenn’s biggest gripes about my housekeeping was my sloppy, haphazard laundry methods. Clean clothes had to be precisely folded or they would end up thrown in a big messy pile in the closet for me to fold all over again. So when I left, my first act of rebellion was to throw my socks into the drawer in a massive sock ball. But now my socks were matched and folded with military precision.
“No arguments, no negotiations, just ‘OK’?”
“Uh-huh,” I said, nodding again, chewing my lip. E-mails. All it took was a few pissy e-mails from my ex-husband, and I had retreated right back into “life with Glenn” coping mechanisms. What did that say about my progress so far? What did it say about my ability to survive on my own?
I could send Caleb after Glenn.
The thought took root as quickly and stealthily as a poisonous weed. I had a big bad werewolf on my side. He could make my Glenn problem disappear with a snap of his claws. No more running. No more hiding. No more fear. All I had to do was ask. It was on the tip of my tongue.
“Hey.” Caleb squeezed my arm gently. My eyes snapped up to his face and its expression of concern. “Are you all right?
I gave him a weak smile. I couldn’t ask that of him. I couldn’t ask Caleb to kill for me. I wouldn’t put blood on his hands, or mine. I would have to handle this myself.
“You spaced out a little bit on me,” Caleb said.
“I’m fine, just not looking forward to another couple of hours in the truck. That’s all.”
He grinned, plopping down on the bed and pulling me into his lap. “Well, that’s because I haven’t introduced you to the wonders of my Conway Twitty CD collection.”
What little smile I was able to produce disappeared, even as he nuzzled my neck. “If there is any good in this world, you are kidding.”
Later that night, while Caleb slept, I sat up, thinking over the e-mail issue. How had Glenn found my e-mail address? Before I’d stumbled out of the Internet café, I’d checked the log-in history and didn’t see any suspicious account activity. Had he figured out the password? How much longer would it be before he tried to take over the account?
In those few moments before my brain had completely melted down, I’d deleted every e-mail Red-burn had ever sent me and then sent her a quick message telling her it was possible the account had been compromised and asking if she could call my phone. I’d changed the e-mail password and increased the security settings, arranging it so that any changes would be tracked through my cell phone.
Glenn thought he could find me. He had no idea how good I’d gotten at hiding.
With a decisiveness that seemed cold and alien, I swung my feet out from under the covers. I scrawled a short note to Caleb on one of his Post-its and stuck it to the lampshade. I concentrated on keeping my feet silent on the nubby motel carpet. My bags were already packed for the early-morning departure. All I had to do was slip on some jeans and shoes and somehow manage to open the door without waking up Caleb, who had superhearing. No problem.
Dressing quietly, I watched him as he slept, the weak light filtering through the curtains giving his skin a faint yellow glow. Just like the light that would spread over his skin before the change. I was more than a little disappointed that I would never get to see Caleb shift. I would have liked to see what he looked like in wolf form. Of course, his human form wasn’t too bad, either.
My fingers fumbled with the button of my jeans, and I shook them out. What was I doing? Why couldn’t I just wake him and tell him that I was freaking out and needed his help? Why couldn’t I give up my need to run as soon as things got tough? Why couldn’t I just tell him I knew about wolfiness?